About half of elementary school kids may have access to junk food on campus

Think your kid isn't tempted by junk food while at school? A study finds that about half of kids surveyed from public and private school had ready access to vending machines, snack bars, school stores and a la carte lines. And they're not just selling carrot sticks.

The study, released Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, looked at the foods children had access to at various spots on campus during lunch time, in what they termed "competitive venues."

Researchers surveyed children at 2,647 public elementary schools and 1,205 public elementary schools from 2006 to 2010. Available foods were grouped into salty products (low-fat and regular), low-fat products, sweet products (low-fat and regular) and more healthful foods such as salads, fresh fruit and vegetables.

About half of all students in public and private schools were able to buy foods from at least one of the campus venues. Students had easy access to sweet foods, but healthful foods weren't as available. About two-thirds of students who were on campuses that had competitive venues were able to buy vegetables, fruits and salad at them.

When broken down by region, children at public schools in the South had greater access to the venues, and were more able to buy salty and sweet foods.

Childhood obesity continues to be a concern for schools, some of which have added programs targeting the issue. In January the USDA released plans to make school lunches more healthful.

"Providing healthier foods and beverages is important to reinforce nutrition education messages," the authors wrote, "and to bring schools into compliance with nutritional recommendations, while also providing a source of needed revenue for schools."

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