Where has all the chocolate gone? A national survey assesses the effects of recent legislation to improve the nutritional quality of English secondary-school vending.
Matthews A., Nelson M., Kaur A., Rayner M., Kelly P., Cowburn G.
OBJECTIVE: Obesity levels are rising in almost all parts of the world, including the UK. School food offers children in Great Britain between 25 % and 33 % of their total daily energy, with vending typically offering products high in fat, salt or sugar. Government legislation of 2007 to improve the quality of school food now restricts what English schools can vend. In assessing the effect of this legislation on the quality of English secondary-school vending provision, the response of schools to these effects is explored through qualitative data. DESIGN: A longitudinal postal and visit-based inventory survey of schools collected vending data during the academic year 2006-2007 (pre-legislation), 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 (both post-legislation). Interviews with school staff explored issues of compliance. Product categorisation and analysis were carried out by product type, nutrient profiling and by categories of foods allowed or prohibited by the legislation. SETTING: English secondary schools. SUBJECTS: A representative sample of 279 schools including sixty-two researcher-visited inventory schools participated in the research. RESULTS: School vending seems to have moved towards compliance with the new standards - now drinks vending predominates and is largely compliant, whereas food vending is significantly reduced and is mostly non-compliant. Sixth form vending takes a disproportionate share of non-compliance. Vending has declined overall, as some schools now perceive food vending as uneconomic. Schools adopting a 'whole-school' approach appeared the most successful in implementing the new standards. CONCLUSIONS: Government legislation has achieved significant change towards improving the quality of English school vending, with the unintended consequence of reducing provision.