New Study: Junk Food Accessibility After 10 Years of a Restrictive Food Environment Zoning Policy Around Schools
A team of researchers led by Lindsey Soon with Jason Gilliland and Leia Minaker recently published an article entitled: “Junk Food Accessibility After 10 Years of a Restrictive Food Environment Zoning Policy Around Schools.”
Zoning has been proposed as a way of reducing unhealthy food access for youth, but little research has evaluated outcomes of proposed or existing junk food bans, and even less research has considered equity implications of such zoning policies.
In this simulation study, set in the Region of Waterloo, Ontario (Canada), the researchers examined how secondary student access to fast food restaurants and convenience stores would change under such a policy over 10 years in a mid-sized Canadian municipality. Outcomes are presented by school-level advantage (derived from the proportion of students in equity-deserving subgroups: low income, students who speak English as an additional language, and students not born in Canada).
The researchers found that current fast-food restaurant and convenience store access was higher around schools with a higher proportion of equity-deserving students, and access remained higher around these schools even after 10 years under each policy scenario. After 10 years, the mean number of fast-food restaurants and convenience stores within a 1-km network distance still exceeded five unhealthy outlets for both disadvantaged and advantaged schools, which was above the threshold associated with lower junk food consumption among youth.
These findings bring into question the potential effectiveness and equity implications of restrictive zoning policies aimed at protecting youth from poor-quality food environments.
Citation: Lindsey Soon, Jason Gilliland & Leia M. Minaker. “Junk Food Accessibility After 10 Years of a Restrictive Food Environment Zoning Policy Around Schools.” Journal of the American Planning Association (2022); https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2022.2050280