School Finances, Junk Food, and Student Obesity
Here is an interesting item from the National Bureau of Economic Research: schools that are under financial pressure are more likely to make junk food available and allow food and beverage advertising to students.
In Reading, Writing and Raisinets: Are School Finances Contributing to Children’s Obesity? (NBER Working Paper No. 11177), co-authors Patricia Anderson and Kristin Butcher combine data from several sources to examine both the effect of financial pressure on school food policies and whether these school food policies help create overweight adolescents. They find that schools that are under financial pressure are more likely to make junk food available to their students, to have “pouring rights” contracts, and to allow food and beverage advertising to students. By using measures that capture financial pressure to predict the fraction of schools in a county with these particular food policies, they then estimate the effect of the fraction of schools in a county with these food policies on adolescent body mass index (BMI).
Now it is just the school either. The research also finds the that having at least one overweight parent is a significant factor as well. In other words, those students who do not have an overweight parent are not likely to have a problem with obesity.
Further, the NBER summary of the article notes that while there are adverse health problems with introducing junk food on campuses, that the revenues generated by the sale of junk food is also used to fund various programs that in the absence of junk food and the revenues thus raised would not be funded. Hence there is a trade off problem here.
[Caveat: This post is based on the articles abstract and NBER summary of the research. Since obtaining a copy of the article would cost me $5, I haven’t read it. If somebody wants to send me $5, I’ll gladly buy a copy, read it and write more on the article.]