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Examining associations between school food environment characteristics and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among Canadian secondary-school students in the COMPASS study

  • Katelyn M Godin (a1), Ashok Chaurasia (a1), David Hammond (a1) and Scott T Leatherdale (a1)

To examine associations between Canadian adolescents’ sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) consumption and several school food environment characteristics, and to investigate differences in these characteristics between schools in provinces with voluntary (Alberta) v. mandatory (Ontario) provincial school nutrition policies.


We used a questionnaire to assess the number of weekdays participants consumed three SSB categories (soft drinks, sweetened coffees/teas, energy drinks) and various sociodemographic and behavioural characteristics. We examined the in-school water fountain accessibility, vending machines’ contents and presence of various food outlets within schools’ 1 km buffer. We developed hierarchical Poisson regression models to identify associations between student- and school-level characteristics and students’ SSB outcomes.


Alberta and Ontario, Canada.


Adolescents (n 41 829) from eighty-nine secondary schools.


Compared with their Ontarian counterparts, Albertan participants had a significantly higher rate of SSB intake across all drink categories and SSB availability was significantly greater in Albertan schools’ vending machines. Availability of sweetened coffees/teas in school vending machines and access to restaurants within the school’s 1 km buffer were associated with increased SSB intake in three of the final models. Overall, the school food environment-level characteristics examined had a modest to negligible impact on student days of SSB intake.


We identified that the school food environment characteristics examined here had little impact on adolescents’ days of SSB consumption. While schools should adopt or maintain a comprehensive policy approach to discourage students’ SSB intake, population-level interventions focusing on other contexts (e.g. home and community) are needed to complement existing school-based interventions.

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