WASHINGTON, DC — Fast-food restaurants are concentrated within a short walking distance of schools, exposing children to “poor quality food environments” on a daily basis, according to new research published in the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

After studying fast-food restaurants in the Chicago area, researchers found the median distance of any school from a fast-food restaurant to be about a third of a mile, a distance an adult can walk easily in five minutes. Researchers also found that almost 80 percent of schools had at least one fast-food restaurant within less than a half mile.

Fast-food restaurants were statistically significantly clustered in areas within a short walking distance from schools. An estimated three to four times as many fast-food restaurants were located within less than a mile of schools than would be expected if the restaurants were distributed throughout the city in a way unrelated to school locations.

Last year, the Institute of Medicine called upon the food industry to voluntarily restrict advertising of unhealthy food to children. The study's authors also suggest implementing school policies prohibiting off-campus fast food from being brought to school and zoning requirements to limit restaurants' proximity to schools as ways to combat rising childhood obesity rates.