Several cities, including Austin, Texas and New York, have considered banning fast food restaurants near schools, but can we know if this strategy would be effective?
This study investigates the effect of fast food availability on child weight results by gender, race, and location.
No observable effects
The researchers used the body mass index of Arkansas students , collected from 2004 to 2010, and compared it to home and school addresses through annual school records. The home address was used to geocode the location of the student residences.
Fast food restaurants were identified on the route between the children’s homes and their schools . Fast food restaurants included major hamburger chains and self-service restaurants (eg McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy’s), dairy stores with large fast food menus (eg Dairy Queen), pizza take-out establishments , taco places (for example, Taco Bell), sandwich (for example, Subway, Quiznos), and fried chicken restaurants (for example, KFC, Chick-Fil-A). The researchers excluded specialty stores such as ice cream parlors that do not sell other fast foods (for example, Baskin-Robbins), coffee shops (for example, Starbucks), and donut shops (for example, Krispy Kream).
Using a mean radius of 1.6 km to define exposure near home and school, the average total exposure level was 3.34 restaurants. 45.2% of children have at least one fast food restaurant located 800 meters from their school .
But the researchers concluded that changes in exposure had no effect on the BMI score .
For example, increasing exposure to fast food in three restaurants from fourth to tenth grade increased the mean change in BMI by 0.003, less than one percent (0.7%) of the standard deviation.