Factors Associated with the Offering and Sale of Competitive Foods and School Lunch Participation



      The objective of this study was to identify factors that predict offering and sale of competitive foods, as well as factors that predict average daily participation in school lunch.


      Surveys were distributed to 271 school foodservice directors in a random sample of high schools in Pennsylvania that were selected to be representative of the entire population of high schools in Pennsylvania based on chosen demographic characteristics.


      Two hundred twenty-eight school foodservice directors (84%) returned surveys.

      Statistical Analyses

      Descriptive and multiple regression analyses were done using SPSS version 11.5 (2002, SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL).


      Percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price meals and timing of lunch were significant predictors of a la carte sales. Enrollment was negatively associated with number of vending machines per student. The number of less nutritious food items offered in vending machines and existence of soft drink machines owned by soft drink companies, for which the school receives a percent of sales, both predicted number of vending machines per student. Enrollment was inversely related to average daily participation in school lunch. The percentage of students eligible for free/reduced-price meals and enforcement of a policy prohibiting parents or students from bringing food into the cafeteria from local fast-food establishments positively predicted average daily participation in school lunch.


      These findings may be useful to school wellness councils in developing wellness policies as mandated by the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004, as well as in structuring school environments to promote more healthful food choices by students.
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      C. Probart is an associate professor, E. McDonnell and J. E. Weirich are project coordinators, and T. Hartman is an assistant professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park.


      L. Bailey-Davis is director of operations, Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and Activity, The Pennsylvania State University, Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown; at the time of this study, she was chief, Cardiovascular Health Section, Bureau of Chronic Diseases and Injury Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Harrisburg.