Number of fast-food shops close to schools rises by two-thirds

This could have 'devastating consequences' for pupils' health, according to paediatricians

Adi Bloom

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The number of fast-food shops within five minutes’ walk of a school has increased by two-thirds over the past eight years, leading to "devastating consequences" for pupils' health, according to paediatricians.

And in London the number of fast-food outlets near schools has increased by more than 90 per cent, according to new figures.

The statistics show that nationally more than a quarter of fast-food restaurants and shops are now less than five minutes’ walk of a school. 

Russell Viner, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has accused fast-food chains of “cashing in on school-age footfall”, with “devastating consequences for the overall health of our children”.

The RCPCH says that a third of children are now obese or overweight by the time they leave primary school.

Fast-food 'health threat'

Nationally, there has been a 67 per cent rise in the number of fast-food outlets within five minutes' walk of a school since 2009, according to figures calculated by Allmapdata, from CACI data specialists.

This increase has been most dramatic in London, with an increase of 92 per cent – from 1,831 to 3,517 shops – between 2009 and 2017.

In North-West England, there were 1,517 fast-food shops in 2009, and 2,462 in 2017: an increase of 62 per cent. And in the West Midlands there was a 57 per cent increase between 2009 and 2017: from 733 to 1,152 restaurants.

In particular, there has been a significant increase in Subway sandwich-chain outlets. While the proportion of Subway shops has increased by 61 per cent nationally in the past five years, the proportion of Subway shops within a five-minute walk of a school increased by 74 per cent during the same period.

'Committed to healthier eating'

Ben Reynolds, of the food charity Sustain, which runs a children’s food campaign, told The Times that he wanted secondary schools to introduce policies that would require pupils under the age of 16 to stay on school premises during the day. He called on the government to support schools in providing alternative lunch options for pupils.

A spokesperson for Subway said: “We do not prioritise the location of stores close to where schools are situated. In addition, we lead the on-the-go food sector in its commitment to healthier eating, setting best practice and meeting public health policy goals.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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