marketing in schools may discourage healthy
Penn State Live
Wednesday, December 13,
permitted in schools, such as soft drink
ads; the use of Channel One broadcasts in
classrooms; sales incentives from soft drink
bottlers; and exclusive beverage contracts
may discourage a "nutrition-friendly"
environment for students, say researchers.
Dr. Claudia Probart, Penn State associate
professor of nutritional sciences who led
the study, says, "Schools' newly created
wellness policies as mandated by the Child
Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of
2004 provide ideal opportunities to examine
school environments for advertising that
might conflict with their goals for a
healthy climate for students."
The study is detailed in the current
(December) issue of the Journal of the
American Dietetic Association in a paper,
"Existence and Predictors of Soft Drink
Advertisements in Pennsylvania High
Schools." The authors are Probart; Elaine
McDonnell, project coordinator, Penn State;
Lisa Bailey-Davis, director of operations,
Pennsylvania Advocates for Nutrition and
Activity; and J. Elaine Weirich, project
manager at Penn State.
The researchers sent surveys to 271 school
foodservice directors at high schools in
Pennsylvania and received 84 percent
participation. The schools were
representative of the entire population of
high schools in Pennsylvania.
Approximately two-thirds (66.5 percent) of
the respondents said soft drink
advertisements were located in at least one
spot in their school, with 62 percent at
vending machines and 27 percent on school
grounds such as sports playing fields. More
than 10 percent of the respondents said the
ads were displayed in the cafeteria.
Factors influencing the number of soft drink
ads were soft drink company incentives from
distributors, exclusive beverage contracts
with the schools and subscriptions to
Channel One, a free 12-minute news broadcast
with 2 minutes of advertisements.
The extent of soft drink ads appears to be
linked to lower average daily participation
in the school lunch program, the researchers
"The negative association between number of
soft drink advertisement locations and
participation in school lunch is a
disturbing finding, suggesting these ads
compete effectively with school lunches,
which are designed for good nutrition,"
McDonnell adds, "The school-supported
appearance of commercial advertising in
locations or in news programs may be sending
silent messages that this brand might be
'OK,' creating a 'halo effect.'"
This study points to the need for additional
research, including physical inventories of
commercialization on school campuses to
verify the possible impact on students. The
findings may prompt consideration of tough
issues because financially strapped schools
may not be able to replace the revenue from
"However, under the 2004 legislation,
schools are being asked to become zones of
good health and nutrition, providing
leadership in the effort to prevent
childhood obesity," Probart says. "One way
is for a community, parents and educators to
change teens’ unhealthy eating habits is to
develop, implement and enforce policies to
create advertising-free, nutrition-friendly
The study was supported by the Pennsylvania
Department of Health through
Grant/Cooperative Agreement from the Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention.