Objective: To examine the availability of beverages for sale in elementary schools.
Design: Nationally representative mail-back survey.
Setting: U.S. public and private elementary schools during the 2006-2007, 2007-2008, and 2008-2009 school years.
Participants: Survey respondents at elementary schools.
Main outcome measure: Availability of beverages offered in competitive venues and school lunches.
Results: Public elementary school students' access to beverages for sale in any competitive venue on campus (vending machines, stores, snack bars, and/or à la carte) increased from 49.0% in 2006-2007 to 61.3% in 2008- 2009 (P < .01). The percentage of public school students with access to only beverages allowed by the Institute of Medicine guidelines for competitive beverages (i.e., water, 100% juice, and 1% or nonfat milk) increased from 10.0% to 16.1% (P < .01). Access to higher-fat milk (2% or whole milk) in school lunches decreased from 77.9% of public school students in 2006-2007 to 68.3% in 2008-2009 (P < .001). Flavored milk was available at lunch on most days for 92.1% of public school students.
Conclusions: As of the 2008-2009 school year, high-calorie beverages and beverages not allowed by national guidelines were still widely available in elementary schools.