Junk food options swarm poorer urban schools

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Schools in urban areas with high levels of socioeconomic distress are exposed to a disproportionate amount of junk food, according to a recent study.

Researchers found high numbers of “junk food opportunities”—restaurants and convenience stores selling foods high in fat, salt, and sugar and low in nutritional value—concentrated near elementary schools in low-income areas of London, Ontario. The results of the research, published in Social Science and Medicine, could have implications for cities in the United States, as well.

“It basically confirmed that there’s a lot of junk food on kids’ menus in poorer neighborhoods of urban areas,” says Richard Sadler, an assistant professor in the College of Human Medicine’s public health division at Michigan State University.

During the study, the researchers counted the number of junk food outlets in urban, suburban, and rural areas around London, Ontario, elementary schools.

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Researchers then used a tool called the Children’s Menu Assessment to gauge the price, promotion, placement, and availability of healthy options and nutrition information. This helped them identify the problem areas. A follow-up study, examining the quality of the menus at these outlets, is currently under journal review.

Sadler has conducted several health-related studies in Flint, Michigan, where he is based. Sadler says he plans to conduct a similar study in Flint with the goal of influencing public policy decisions that could lead to healthier food options for children.

Source: Michigan State University