Call to ban fast food outlets near Cork schools

Call to ban fast food outlets near Cork schools
More than one in three Cork schools are within walking distance of a fast-food outlet.

MORE than one in three Cork schools are within walking distance of a fast-food outlet, findings from a new interactive map reveal as the chairperson of Cork Food Policy Council calls for a “no fry zone” to be introduced in Cork.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the Cork Food Map, an interactive map showing what types of food businesses are available in different areas of the city, Janas Harrington, Senior lecturer in the School of Public Health in UCC and chairperson of Cork Food Policy council, said findings from the map were shocking.

Cork Food Map reveals that one in three primary schools and half of all secondary schools have a fast-food chain outlet located within 400 metres of their gates.

View the map at http://corkfoodpolicycouncil.com/the-cork-food-map/

“Particularly when it comes to children and fast food outlets, I was shocked by some of the insights from the map,” Ms Harrington said.

One-third of Irish children are now overweight, according to a report published in The Lancet medical journal in 2017.

“When you look at the health statistics and the prevalence of obesity in the country, especially amongst children, we need to start taking action at a policy level to improve the food environment and to help people to make good choices,” Ms Harrington said.

A so-called “no fry zone” campaign in Co Wicklow has met with partial success in the past two years, twice preventing McDonald’s outlets from being granted permission to open opposite school premises, although the planning ban has not been endorsed by all councillors.

Now Ms Harrington has said it’s time for Cork City Council to consider a “no fry zone” ban to stop new takeaways from locating near schools. Such a policy wouldn’t impact existing food businesses.

“I’d like to see something similar introduced in Cork,” Ms Harrington said. 

“I think that would be very good and very possible to introduce. If the city council were in the position to do that, it would be a very positive, health-promoting policy for our children.

"People talk about the nanny state and over-regulation, but there always needs to be a balance between businesses being able to make a profit and people’s health.” 

Cork Food Map, commissioned by the Cork Food Policy Council, is a publicly accessible interactive map which will launch on January 22 in Cork University Business School.

The map, funded by the Healthy Ireland Fund, analyses the different types of food businesses in the city, and patterns relating to where they are located.

Other insights from Cork Food Map include the revelation that “bakeries, confectioneries, doughnuts and ice cream shops” have access to the highest population density of Corkonians out of all food retail outlet categories, making the temptation of sugary treats a constant.

Even though a link between improved diet and access to the types of fresh ingredients available in supermarkets is well-documented, almost 75% of areas in Cork City don’t have a supermarket within ten minutes’ walk, making Corkonians car-dependent to shop for groceries.

Northside areas like Churchfield and Gurranebraher can have car ownership rates of 56%, making fresh produce harder to access.

Janas Harrington, Senior lecturer in the School of Public Health in UCC
Janas Harrington, Senior lecturer in the School of Public Health in UCC

There are double the number of Convenience Stores, which generally have high prices and an emphasis on processed foods over fresh, as any other retail outlet in the city.

Ms Harrington said Cork Food Map gave valuable insights into how these factors impacted the growing problem of food poverty in Cork.

“With food poverty, the access, availability and affordability of food all impact on what we choose to buy,” Ms Harrington said.

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