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Banning Junk Food in School Vending Machines Seems to Work

The first nationwide study of school junk food policies confirms that limiting kids' access to unhealthy snacks keeps them slimmer.

With rates of childhood obesity climbing over the last decade, some parents and policy-makers have thought to consider whether the availability of endless soda and junk food in school vending machines might be contributing to the problem—and if banning those foods in schools might help solve it.

According to the first nationwide study on the subject, published in the journal Pediatrics, the answers are yes and yes. The researchers looked at data from 6,300 students in 40 states. They measured each student's weight and height in 2004, when they were entering middle school, and again in 2007. They then looked at whether weight gain over that period depended on a state's junk food laws. From the AP:

Children in the study gained less weight from fifth through eighth grades if they lived in states with strong, consistent laws versus no laws governing snacks available in schools. For example, kids who were 5 feet tall and 100 pounds gained on average 2.2 fewer pounds if they lived in states with strong laws in the three years studied. Also, children who were overweight or obese in fifth grade were more likely to reach a healthy weight by eighth grade if they lived in states with the strongest laws.


The results aren't huge, but apparently these laws have a real—and positive—effect on students' health. That means those students will be less likely to develop one or more of the myriad problems that come with obesity. And that's not only good for those kids, it's also good for the nation as a whole, because it helps reduce health care costs. Maybe this all comes at the cost of a seventh-grader's inalienable right to Doritos during passing period, but it still seems worth it to me.

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