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We Need a Junk Food Tax!

Posted Oct 13 2009 2:10pm

October 13, 2009
Overeating on Pocket Change

Is the corner store making some children fat?

Low-income children in Philadelphia with about one dollar in pocket money managed to purchase almost 400 calories worth of snack food at convenience stores on the way to and from school, according to study published on Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

Their top choice on their way to school in the morning: candy, including favorites like Sour Patch Kids and Peanut Chews, often sold in cheap, individually wrapped pieces. The kids’ favorite after-school snack was chips. The children spent $1.07 on average each day, the researchers found.

“One of the most surprising findings was how many calories a dollar and seven cents can buy,” said Kelley E. Borradaile, the paper’s lead author and a professor at the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University. She worked on the study with The Food Trust, a community-based organization in Philadelphia that promotes healthy eating options.

The neighborhood stores offer a wide variety of cheap packaged snacks that contain little nutrition but are high in fat and sugar, the study found. For a total tab of $1.07, a child could purchase an 8-oz. sugary drink and a single serving bag of potato chips, plus a popsicle and several pieces of individually wrapped candy. The sum total of calories: 356 calories on average per day.

Most of the kids in the study were from low-income families and qualified for free or reduced-price meals at school, and many belonged to minority groups with high obesity rates, the study said.

The researchers tracked and analyzed over 800 purchases made by children in the fourth through sixth grades at 24 stores in Philadelphia’s inner city between Jan. and June 2008. About half the kids went to the stores every day, the study found. Some went twice a day.

Most of the convenience stores were located near to the children’s elementary schools.

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