A new study published in the journal Health Education and Behavior finds that kids eat healthier when schools remove junk food and soda from vending machines and cafeterias. The finding is important because it rebuts claims that removing junk food from schools would simply cause kids to shift their consumption to other times of day, rather than reducing overall junk food consumption. Some have even claimed that removing junk food from schools could increase overall consumption by creating a “forbidden fruit” effect that would lead kids to eat more junk food when they do have access to it.
Researchers, looking at consumption patterns for kids in six Connecticut middle schools (three of which replaced junk food sold in the school with healthier options, and three of which did not), found that children in the schools where junk food was removed ate less junk food during the day–with no negative effect on what foods they consumed at home. This is a pretty small and unrepresentative sample, though, so more research is needed. But it’s a positive initial sign that improving the nutritional quality of food options in schools could have beneficial effects for kids. And more evidence that simple steps to improve kids’ food consumption have value.