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The “School Foodshed”: schools and fast-food outlets in a London borough

M. Caraher (Centre for Food Policy C310, School of Community and Health Sciences, City University, London, UK)
S. Lloyd (Centre for Food Policy, School of Community and Health Sciences, City University, London, UK)
T. Madelin (NHS Tower Hamlets, London, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 25 February 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore the location of fast-food outlets around secondary schools and the influence of fast-food availability on the food choices of school children in an inner-London borough.


A number of methods including: mapping of outlets relative to schools; sampling food; gathering data on secondary school food policies; observing food behaviour in fast food outlets and focus groups with young people. Findings were fed back to a committee consisting of representatives from nutrition, public health, planning services and local community groups.


There are concentrations of fast-food outlets near schools and students reported use of these, including “stories” of skipping lunch in order to save money and eat after school at these outlets. Food from fast-food outlets was high in fat, saturated fat and salt, but these are not the only source of high such foods, with many of the students reporting buying from shops near the school or on the way to or from school. At lunchtime food outlets were less likely to be used by school students in areas near schools that have a “closed gate” policy.

Research limitations/implications

The “snapshot” nature of the research limited what can be said about the food behaviours of the children outside school hours.

Practical implications

The local policy context requires action to improve both the food offered in schools and the immediate environment around the school in order to tackle fast-food and other competitive foods on offer outside the school.


This is one of the first studies in the UK to systematically map fast food outlets around schools and explore what might be done. This research shows how it is possible to link the findings of local research and develop local responses from both public health and local authority planning perspectives. The research moves away from a mere documenting of problems to devising integrated public health solutions. The findings show how public health and planning services can work together to the mutual benefit of each other.



Funding. This work was supported by funding from Tower Hamlets Primary Care Trust.


Caraher, M., Lloyd, S. and Madelin, T. (2014), "The “School Foodshed”: schools and fast-food outlets in a London borough", British Food Journal, Vol. 116 No. 3, pp. 472-493.



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