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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard Finds New Standards Push Massachusetts toward Healthier School Foods

New Massachusetts standards that ban the sale of unhealthy snacks and beverages — the kind often sold in vending machines — appear to be working, according to a new study co-authored by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Along with colleagues from at Northeastern, Brandeis, and Boston Universities, the researchers looked at 74 middle and high schools in 37 school districts around the state to see how well they were complying with 2012 standards requiring that “competitive” foods sold outside of the National School Lunch Program — in vending machines, à la carte cafeteria lines, or school stores, thus “competing” with the sale of school meals — be healthier.

They found that, in the first year after the new standards were implemented, there was a dramatic increase in foods and beverages sold that were consistent with the Massachusetts standards. In 2012, a year before the standards were put into place, about 13 percent of the competitive foods and 28-46 percent of the competitive beverages sold were compliant with the proposed future standards. In 2013, those percentages had leapt to 54-69 percent for food and to 80-87 percent for beverages. Read more