By Selena Stevens
the current population of overweight and obese youth
move toward adulthood, unless trends in body weight
are reversed, the quality of life related to health
for Kentuckians will become even more dismal."
lead researcher and food and nutrition specialist
with the UK Cooperative Extension Service
4, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) --
Parents and communities working diligently to help
obese children lose weight and be healthy may not
be getting the help they need from their schools.
A recent research report from the University of Kentucky
shows that 84 percent of food sold in school vending
machines in Kentucky is "junk food:" soft drinks,
candy, fried foods and pastries.
339 schools responding to the survey, 97 percent of
high schools, 88 percent of middle schools and 44
percent of elementary schools reported that students
have access to vending machines. The report also suggests
that students may be eating breakfast, lunch and snacks
from vending machines.
regulations require schools to make vending machines
inaccessible to students until one-half hour after
lunch is served.
6 percent of responding schools said the vending machines
are available before school begins in the morning,
throughout the day and during lunch periods. After
lunch, 54 percent offer access, and 59 percent allow
not saying that the schools are bad," said Janet Tietyen,
lead researcher on the project and a food and nutrition
specialist with the UK Cooperative Extension Service.
"We're saying that if people in the community are
working to decrease obesity in our children, we have
to include our schools in the initiative."
to the report, the percentage of overweight children
in the United States has nearly doubled and the percentage
of overweight adolescents has nearly tripled during
the past two decades.
Kentucky children to be more overweight and obese
than their national counterparts. One indicator, children
enrolled in the Kentucky Women, Infants and Children
supplemental feeding program, documented an increase
of 19 percent in overweight children from 1995 to
2000. Another report showed Kentucky adults to be
the least health of all Americans.
current population of overweight and obese youth move
toward adulthood, unless trends in body weight are
reversed, the quality of life related to health for
Kentuckians will become even more dismal," Tietyen
report also noted that food was used as a reward for
good behaviors, attendance and academic achievement
in 81 percent of the schools. Pizza was the highest
reward, 83 percent of schools used it, along with
candy (64 percent) and soft drinks (46 percent). This
teaches children bad messages about food, Tietyen
spend a lot of time in schools and are afforded a
great deal of freedom in selecting snack foods," Tietyen
said. "Schools can and should provide an environment
that exemplifies a healthy relationship with food."
school officials indicated that vending machines were
provided to meet student demand, the study noted that
83 percent of schools maintain contracts with soft
drink companies, which provide a source of revenue.
On average, Kentucky schools made just over $6,000
in revenue from vending machines last year. The profit
was used in a variety of ways, including purchasing
supplies and instructional materials, for student
awards and incentives, and sponsoring field trips
and guest speakers. The contracts also sometimes afforded
schools free soft drinks, donations and other incentives
from the companies.
and Anita Courtney, director of health promotion at
the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, said
healthy alternatives to junk food can and should be
offered through school vending.
short-sighted to exploit our children's health to
generate revenue when we will be paying for it in
many ways in the future," Courtney said. "We
can offer our children healthy, appealing alternatives,
and in fact, West Virginia schools have done so successfully."
also noted another healthy vending success story in
Madison, Wis., where machines exclusively vending
milk were placed in schools. The schools report initial
sales to be "surprisingly strong."
was commissioned by the Coalition on Type 2 Diabetes
and Overweight in Children, headed by Lt. Gov. Steve
Henry, and was presented to legislators in Frankfort
in late January. The Kentucky General Assembly is
considering legislation, which would set nutritional
guidelines for food sold in school vending machines
and stores, require more fiber in school lunches,
and increase mandated nutritional training for school