Junk food in schools gets weighty reprieve

On-site sale of sugary snacks may not feed obesity

5:05pm, January 20, 2012

Controversial sales of candy, soda and other junk food in middle schools don’t weigh heavily on students’ waistlines. This surprising finding — based on a study that followed almost 20,000 kids through middle school — suggests that obesity prevention programs should target children in their homes and communities during the preschool years, when eating habits form, researchers say.

Some scientists who study childhood obesity caution that the new investigation may underestimate a tendency for students to gain weight in middle schools that offer high-calorie alternatives to standard lunches.

Boys and girls, kids from rich families and poor ones, and students of different races displayed no greater tendency to get heavier or to become obese in middle schools stocked with sugary and fatty goodies, as opposed to schools free of junk food, say sociologists Jennifer Van Hook and Claire Altman, both of Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

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