Fast Food And Young Waistlines Make Lousy Neighbors

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

So what happens when you put fast food joints next to high schoolers?

In a study of more than a million California ninth-graders over 8 years, researchers found that the likelihood of obesity at schools near fast food restaurants was 5.2% higher than the state average, the Los Angeles Times reports.

But it's not simply the presence of McDonald's that's at fault. Fact is, a great deal of fast food advertising targets low-income families and children. Couple that with the recent cuts in nutrition educational programs, and you can understand why kids may flock to the Big Mac and supersized fries.

"Fast food offers the most calories per price compared to other restaurants, and that's combined with a high temptation factor," said a member of the research team, which concluded that cities worried about kids' obesity might want to ban fast-food restaurants close to schools. "I know it's not very good for you, but I eat it because that is the closest place to school," said one student.

This leads me to one of my favorite non-profits: the Edible Schoolyard, brain child of organic-chef Alice Walker. The school yard is an acre-big garden adjacent to a Berkeley public school. Teachers link garden experiences with students' lessons for integrated experiential learning of science, nutrition, culture, ecology, math, history and responsibility through the cultivation and preparation of food.

As the slow-food movement flourishes, and nutrition research comes to light, I hope the beloved Obamas expand the organic garden beyond the White House and into the homes of those who need it most.