Aug. 23, 2005 -- More and more, fast-food restaurants are staking out locations within easy walking distance of schools, exposing children to poor-quality foods, according to a new study.The findings add weight to the growing argument that the availability of high-calorie, low-nutrition fast foods play a role in the nationwide epidemic of obesity among children.That's the conclusion of a new study by researchers at Children's Hospital Boston and the Harvard School of Public Health. The study appears in the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers show that on average fast-food restaurants were located less than 1 mile away from any school in Chicago. They estimate that fast-food restaurants were three to four times more likely to be within less than 1 mile from a school than what would have been expected had the restaurant been distributed throughout the city in a way unrelated to schools.

"This means that five days a week, we are sending our school children into environments where there is an abundance of high-calorie, low-nutritional-quality, inexpensive food," says researcher Bryn Austin, MD, of Children Hospital Boston's division of adolescent and young adult medicine, in a news release.