Despite growing interest from government agencies, non-governmental organizations and school boards in restricting or regulating unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children, limited research has examined the emerging knowledge base regarding school-based food and beverage marketing in high-income countries. This review examined current approaches for measuring school food and beverage marketing practices, and evidence regarding the extent of exposure and hypothesized associations with children’s diet-related outcomes. Five databases (MEDLINE, Web of Science, CINAHL, Embase, and PsycINFO) and six grey literature sources were searched for papers that explicitly examined school-based food and beverage marketing policies or practices. Twenty-seven papers, across four high-income countries including Canada (n
= 2), Ireland (n
= 1), Poland (n
= 1) and United States (n
= 23) were identified and reviewed. Results showed that three main methodological approaches have been used: direct observation, self-report surveys, and in-person/telephone interviews, but few studies reported on the validity or reliability of measures. Findings suggest that students in the U.S. are commonly exposed to a broad array of food and beverage marketing approaches including direct and indirect advertising, although the extent of exposure varies widely across studies. More pervasive marketing exposure was found among secondary or high schools compared with elementary/middle schools and among schools with lower compared with higher socio-economic status. Three of five studies examining diet-related outcomes found that exposure to school-based food and beverage marketing was associated with food purchasing or consumption, particularly for minimally nutritious items. There remains a need for a core set of standard and universal measures that are sufficiently rigorous and comprehensive to assess the totality of school food and beverage marketing practices that can be used to compare exposure between study contexts and over time. Future research should examine the validity of school food and beverage marketing assessments and the impacts of exposure (and emerging policies that reduce exposure) on children’s purchasing and diet-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors in school settings.
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