Corner Stores a Threat to City Kids' Waistlines?

"Please understand - this is not just an urban issue but a rural issue as well and even at the suburban convenience stores the kids eat the same high fat, high calorie, low-nutrient foods," said Marilyn K. Tanner-Blasiar, a registered dietitian and study coordinator at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Part of the disagreements on how to help children stem from disagreements about what causes the bad eating behavior – the structure of the city, the price of cheap food, parent's influence or the school.

In Borradaile's paper, she and her colleagues argued that cheap price of the unhealthy foods was part of what made them appealing to students.

"The popularity of inexpensive, energy-dense, low-nutritive foods and beverages presents several opportunities for future intervention targets," the authors wrote. "Alternative foods, however, may be more expense or unavailable in stores. Future research is necessary to understand how factors such as price and availability influence child and adolescent purchases."

Bad food is certainly cheap, but not everyone agrees that healthy food is too expensive.

Does Cost Lead to Unhealthy Eating?

"[Price] is significant," said Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at the Yale University School of Medicine and medical contributor to ABC News.

However in Katz's research, he found more nutritious foods in most product categories do not more.

"There is some urban legend in this," said Katz. "We need programs in school and for parents at home to help steer the kids to better choices, then need to make those choices accessible."

Still others aren't convinced an array of choices would change the way kids eat.

"They [unhealthy snacks] are easy cheap and tasty. I think you give any 9-year-old or 12-year-old $4 and free run in the bodega anywhere in the country and they'd buy the same thing," said Himowitz.

Keith-Thomas Ayoob, an associate professor in the department of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, agreed kids already had some healthy choices in front of them.

"The cost for sugar-free sodas is the same, so a change in behavior is all that's needed," said Ayoob. "An apple is cheaper than a dollar, but if the kids could buy fresh fruit instead, would they?"

Ayoob had a much more uncomfortable explanation for why many kids continue to buy unhealthy snacks after school. As a dietary counselor in New York City, Ayoob works with urban children trying to lose weight on a daily basis.

"Where are they getting the money? These are low income youths but buying these unhealthy snacks is something they couldn't do if their parents weren't giving them money," said Ayoob. "Many of the children coming in to our clinic eating sugary beverages and chips are doing so because their parents bought these foods for them."

"Nobody wants to say that the parents are to blame, but many times the parents are in need of the (dietary) education and motivation," he added.

Dr. Mitchell Roslin, of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, thought that opportunity across these low-income neighborhoods might be the key to healthy eating.

"If you are excited about your future, than you are worried about your health, so you can enjoy the fruits of your labors. If each day is a struggle, than it is more difficult to sacrifice the present for the future," said Roslin.

"As our country's wealth has become more stratified, I believe so has its health," said Roslin. "To many extents, it is about hope and education. Until, these kids feel they have opportunity, it is going to be a difficult problem to solve."

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