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Fast Food Chains Control The Real Estate Near Your Child's School

If you ever wondered why the obesity epidemic is hitting our kids the hardest, here's a reason that may have more to do with the presence of fast food restaurants in my hometown, but less to do with the food they serve: It's all a matter of location, location, location...

Harvard researchers found an astounding 80 percent of the schools in Chicago are located within a half-mile of at least one fast-food restaurant. Even worse, it's probably intentional based on statistical mapping techniques that found there were nearly three times the number of fast food restaurants less than a mile away from Chicago schools than would be typically expected if they were distributed more randomly.

Of course, representatives from McDonald's denied any responsibility, noting the study didn't compare the proximity of fast food restaurants to a student's eating habits, even though childhood obesity rates have soared over the past quarter-century.

That problem is particularly acute in Chicago, considering kids who start kindergarten here are more than twice as likely to be overweight than children who live in other areas.

The problem has never been in our ability to distinguish healthy from unhealthy, but instead to make better choices. The failure to do so is what makes people unhealthy, not what is or isn't available at McDonald's, but their proximity to our schools certainly doesn't help either.

Some ways to prevent your child from becoming a statistic in the obesity epidemic:

American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 95, No. 9, September 2005: 1575-1581

Chicago Sun-Times August 23, 2005

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