Children are spending nearly 15 per cent of their free-time at food retailers, a study has found.
The University of Otago study found that children often did not venture far from home in their free time and when they did, it was typically to go to the school or food retail outlets.
Researchers were alarmed to discover the 11-13-year-olds they studied visited food outlets at least twice a day.
A third of New Zealand children are overweight or obese.
Children were visiting food retail outlets as often as sporting and outdoor recreation venues and spending on average 14 per cent of their free-time there.
"Community action and government leadership is needed to create healthy environments for our children," Associate professor Louise Signal says.
Some changes have been positive including local retailers refusing to sell junk food to children in school uniform.
Ms Signal says a good solution would be to implement healthy zones around schools that prevent junk food and alcohol sales and marketing.