A recent study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania State University and published by the American Sociological Association in the January 2012 issue of Sociology of Education has raised some eyebrows in the health community for suggesting that the junk food sold in schools does not make children fat. The study tracked data on thousands of children as they went to kindergarten through eighth grade during the nine years from 1998 to 2007. The study’s lead author, Jennifer Van Hook said "We were really surprised by the result and, in fact, we held back from publishing our study for roughly two years because we kept looking for a connection that just wasn't there."
The researchers found that although children in Grades 5 through 8 had easy access to junk food sold in their schools, there no increase in the number of students who were overweight or obese and the incidence of obesity actually decreased from39.1% to 35.4% during the same period. If kids did gain weight, it was not due to junk food at school and the data points to the conclusion that efforts to reduce unhealthy weight in children should probably be more focused on the home and other environments outside of school.
Because children are active and busy at school and they only have a few times during school hours when they can eat, there is far less opportunity for them to eat while they're in school compared to time spent at home where they can eat continuously. The Pennsylvania State researchers also concluded that whether or not junk food is available at school may not be related to how much junk food they actually eat during the day.
The study’s conclusion has not been met with warm approval by some of the governments and health agencies that are constantly trying to promote healthy eating habit in order to reduce obesity in children. In 2010 The World Health Organization said that junk food should not be sold in schools and playgrounds at all and many public elementary and secondary schools around the country have eliminated junk food and cola dispensing machines altogether in response.
However, because a child’s eating habits are formed before they reach school age, the claim that fat food dispensing machines in the schools causes obesity doesn’t seem to hold water. It also does not take into account that kids can always get fatty foods at home and bring them to school.