Research Article| Volume 57, ISSUE 3, P338-345, September 2019

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Changes in Fast Food Outlet Availability Near Schools: Unequal Patterns by Income, Race/Ethnicity, and Urbanicity


      Previous research has observed income or racial/ethnic inequalities in fast food restaurant availability near schools. The purpose of this study was to investigate changes in fast food restaurant availability near schools between 2000 and 2010 by school neighborhood income, race/ethnicity, and urbanicity.


      Using data from 7,466 California public schools, negative binomial regression models estimated the relative ratios to evaluate the income gradient in fast food restaurant availability, examine differences in the income gradient in fast food restaurant availability between 2000 and 2010, and investigate if fast food restaurant availability changed in 2010 versus 2000, stratified by race/ethnicity and urbanicity. The analyses were conducted in 2018 and early 2019.


      In urban areas, there was a negative school neighborhood income gradient in fast food restaurant availability in both 2000 and 2010, and across all race/ethnic groups, except majority African American schools. The income gradient in fast food restaurant availability was steeper in 2010 relative to 2000 among Latino majority urban schools. Fast food restaurant availability increased in 2010 relative to 2000 among majority African American, majority Latino, and majority Asian schools in the least affluent neighborhoods. Among majority white schools in similar neighborhoods the availability of fast food restaurants did not change but declined in the most affluent school neighborhoods. In nonurban areas, the income patterns in fast food restaurant availability were less clear, and fast food restaurant availability increased among majority white and Latino schools within the middle neighborhood income tertile.


      These findings suggest the need for future interventions to target schools in low-income urban neighborhoods. Additionally, reducing child health disparities and improving health for all children requires monitoring changes in the food environment near schools.
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