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Enemy at the Gates

More than a third of middle and high schools nationwide sit within a half-mile of a fast-food outlet or convenience store, says a University of Illinois study. The trend is especially prevalent in large cities, where two thirds of secondary schools had at least one fast food restaurant within walking distance, and more than half had a c-store.

To conduct the study, researchers mapped the locations of more than 31,000 middle and high schools and coordinated them with the locations of 129,000 QSR restaurants and c-stores. The findings have consequences for in-school healthy eating policies, which may be undercut by the presence of such establishments just outside the school gates, the study authors say in their analysis.

Even if campuses are “closed” during school hours, the proximity of such businesses within easy walking distance means plenty of access before and after school, especially for the more than two thirds of students who don't ride buses.

The study appears in the June issue of Health & Place, a quarterly journal dealing with issues of health and healthcare related to geography.

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