Examining changes in school vending machine beverage availability and sugar-sweetened beverage intake among Canadian adolescents participating in the COMPASS study: a longitudinal assessment of provincial school nutrition policy compliance and effectiveness.Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2018 11 27; 15(1):121.IJ
School nutrition policies can encourage restrictions in sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) availability in school food outlets in order to discourage students' SSB intake. The main objective was to examine how beverage availability in school vending machines changes over three school years across schools in distinct school nutrition policy contexts. Secondary objectives were to examine how students' weekday SSB intake varies with time and identify longitudinal associations between beverage availability and SSB intake.
This longitudinal study used data from the COMPASS study (2013/14-2015/16), representing 7679 students from 78 Canadian secondary schools and three provincial school nutrition policy contexts (Alberta - voluntary guidelines, Ontario public - mandatory guidelines, and Ontario private schools - no guidelines). We assessed availability of 10 beverage categories in schools' vending machines via the COMPASS School Environment Application and participants' intake of three SSB varieties (soft drinks, sweetened coffees/teas, and energy drinks) via a questionnaire. Hierarchical regression models were used to examine whether: i) progression of time and policy group were associated with beverage availability; and, ii) beverage availability was associated with students' SSB intake.
Ontario public schools were significantly less likely than the other policy groups to serve SSBs in their vending machines, with the exception of flavoured milks. Vending machine beverage availability was consistent over time. Participants' overall SSB intake remained relatively stable; reductions in soft drink intake were partially offset by increased sweetened coffee/tea consumption. Relative to Ontario public schools, attending school in Alberta was associated with more frequent energy drink intake and overall SSB intake whereas attending an Ontario private school was associated with less frequent soft drink intake, with no differences in overall SSB intake. Few beverage availability variables were significantly associated with participants' SSB intake.
Mandatory provincial school nutrition policies were predictive of more limited SSB availability in school vending machines. SSB intake was significantly lower in Ontario public and private schools, although we did not detect a direct association between SSB consumption and availability. The findings provide support for mandatory school nutrition policies, as well as the need for comprehensive school- and broader population-level efforts to reduce SSB intake.