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Living near fast food restaurants influences California teens' eating habits

New research shows that California teens who live or attend school in neighborhoods where fast-food eateries and convenient stores are more prevalent than healthier options, such as grocery stores, are more likely to eat burgers, pizza and fries and wash them down with soda. The Los Angeles Times reports:

UCLA scientists calculated the ratio of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores to grocery stores and produce vendors near teens’ homes and schools. They used the ratio as a measure of how available healthful foods were in their neighborhoods – the lower the score, the healthier the food options.

They then paired this information with surveys of more than 3,600 teens from more than 40 California counties taken in 2007. Among teenagers who went to school or lived in areas that scored a five or higher, more than half had a sugary drink at least once a day, on average, and roughly 50% had fast food at least twice a week, according to the UCLA report.

In their report (.pdf), the authors advocate for several policy changes to help promote healthy eating among teens, including:

  • Increase the presence of farmer’s markets, food cooperatives and community gardens
  • Encourage the development of farm to institution programs
  • Develop and provide incentives to attract grocery stores and improve foods available in existing stores.
  • Consider zoning and land use policies that improve food environments near schools and in underserved communities.

Previously: CDC calls for improving kids’ access to healthy food, Using GIS technology to visualize urban ‘food deserts’, Mapping out our country’s “food deserts” and An edible forest grows in Richmond: Urban gardening program teaches kids about food, nutrition
Photo by LWY

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