The University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has published a study on student and parent perceptions of competitive foods and beverages sold in schools under the U.S. Department of Agri- culture’s Smart Snack nutrition standards. Jennifer Harris, et al., “Effects of Offering Look-Alike Products as Smart Snacks in Schools,” Childhood  Obesity, September 2016.

After soliciting feedback from 659 students ages 13-17 and 859 parents, the study authors report that students could not distinguish between products sold in stores and reformulated “look-alike” versions sold in schools unless the two were placed side-by-side. The study also notes that parents and students “tended to rate the look-alike and store versions of less nutritious snack brands as similar in healthfulness, whereas they tended to view the repackaged Smart Snacks that emphasized improved nutrition as healthier.” In addition, most participants “inaccurately believed they had seen look-alike Smart Snacks for sale in stores” and rated schools selling look-alike Smart Snacks as less concerned about health, according to a concurrent press release.

“Kids think the healthier Smart Snacks they can buy in school are the same products that are sold in stores,” Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives Jennifer Harris is quoted as saying. “This is a great marketing tool. The snack makers get to sell their products in schools and at the same time market their unhealthy brands to kids every school day.” See UConn Today, August 31, 2016.