Proximity of Fast-Food Restaurants to Schools and Adolescent Obesity

This article examines the relationship between the proximity of fast-food restaurants to schools and children’s eating patterns and weight.

What researchers found: Students with fast-food restaurants within one half mile of their school consumed less fruits and vegetables, consumed more soda, and were more likely to be overweight or obese. The research showed this result to be unique to eating at fast-food restaurants; other nearby establishments did not have this effect, nor was this observed for smoking, another risky behavior.

Why we chose this publication: The fact that adolescents with fast-food restaurants within one half mile of schools were more likely to be overweight or obese and less likely to consume fruits and vegetables, should alert policy-makers and city planners on the need to address the food environment surrounding schools. Since the proximity of fast-food restaurants rather than the density of fast-food restaurants near schools was associated with overweight and obesity among adolescents, policy-makers should explore whether zoning restrictions and incentives for healthy eating options near schools may improve the health outcomes of youth.

What researchers studied: Using geo-coded data from the 2002–2005 California Healthy Kids Survey of over 50,000 students and multivariate regression models, researchers estimated associations between fast-food restaurant proximity to school and adolescent obesity.