While childhood obesity tripled in the U.S. between the early 1970s and the late 2000s, weight gain doesn’t correlate to junk food sold in schools, concludes a study in the January issue of Sociology of Education. Kids do most of their eating — and overeating — outside of school, according to the study, which followed children from kindergarten through eighth grade.
“We kept looking for a connection that just wasn’t there,” said Jennifer Van Hook, a Penn State sociology and demography professor, who was the lead author.
While 59.2 percent of fifth graders and 86.3 percent of eighth graders attended schools that sold junk food, a significant increase, the percentage of students who were overweight or obese decreased from 39.1 percent of fifth grade students to 35.4 percent of eighth graders.
Kids don’t have much time to eat at school, Van Hook said. At home, they can “eat endlessly.”
Bad eating habits start very early, she added.