Writing in the American Journal of Public Health, FDr. Bryn Austin of Children’s Hospital Boston and colleagues found that fast-food restaurants in Chicago cluster themselves within a short walking distance of schools, exposing children to “poor quality food environments” on a daily basis.
According to a study of fast-food restaurants in the Chicago area, the median distance of any school from a fast-food restaurant was .52 km or about a third of a mile, a distance an adult can walk easily in five minutes.
- Almost 80 percent of schools had at least one fast-food restaurant within 800 meters, or less than a half mile.
- Fast-food restaurants were statistically significantly clustered in areas within a short walking distance from schools, with an estimated 3 to 4 times as many fast-food restaurants within 1.5 km from schools than would be expected if the restaurants were distributed throughout the city in a way unrelated to school locations.
“Our cities are saturated with fast-food purveyors. Now we are finding that the concentration of fast food is even worse in school neighborhoods,” Austin said in a statement.
“This means that five days a week, we are sending our schoolchildren into environments where there is an abundance of high-calorie, low-nutritional-quality, inexpensive food.”
Last year, the Institute of Medicine called on the food industry to voluntarily restrict advertising of unhealthy food to children. The study’s authors also point to possible school policies prohibiting off-campus fast food from being brought to school and zoning requirements to limit restaurants’ proximity to schools as ways to combat rising obesity rates among children.
(From: “Clustering of Fast-Food Restaurants Around Schools: A Novel Application of Spatial Statistics to the Study of Food Environments.” Contact: S. Bryn Austin, ScD, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine, Children’s Hospital, Boston)