Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Association between the food retail environment surrounding schools and overweight in Canadian youth

Laura M Seliskea1, William Picketta1a2, William F Boycea1a3 and Ian Janssena1a4 c1

a1 Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

a2 Department of Emergency Medicine, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

a3 Social Program Evaluation Group, Faculty of Education, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

a4 School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, K7L 3N6

Abstract

Introduction There is growing interest in how the physical environment influences obesity. Few studies have considered how the food retail environment surrounding schools influences overweight in students.

Objective To determine whether there is a relationship between food retailers surrounding schools and overweight among Canadian youth.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting/methods/subjects The number of food retailers was obtained within a 1 km and 5 km radius around 178 schools in Canada. Retailers included full-service restaurants, fast-food restaurants, sub/sandwich retailers, doughnut/coffee shops, convenience stores and grocery stores. An index of total food retailer exposure was also created. Multilevel analyses were used to control for individual- and area-level covariates.

Results None of the individual food retailers was associated with an increased likelihood of overweight. The total food retailer index was most strongly related to overweight, but in the opposite direction to that hypothesized. At 1 km, students attending schools with at least one food retailer had a lower relative odds of overweight (OR = 0·70, 95 % CI 0·61, 0·81). At 5 km, students attending schools with the highest exposure to the total food retailer index had a lower relative odds of overweight (OR = 0·56, 95 % CI 0·47, 0·68) compared with students attending schools with no exposure.

Conclusions Exposure to various types of food retailers in school neighbourhoods was not associated with an increased likelihood of overweight in Canadian school-aged youth. The opportunity to make healthy choices from a variety of options and the unique Canadian context may explain the findings.

(Received February 29 2008)

(Accepted September 29 2008)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email ian.janssen@queensu.ca

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