Siting markets in ‘food deserts’ no quick cure for obesity, study says

Feb. 3, 2014, Los Angeles Times

By Melissa Healy

The logic seems simple enough: The consumption of healthy foods is low and obesity is high in neighborhoods where supermarkets are notably absent; so, opening supermarkets in those neighborhoods should boost consumption of healthier foods and drive down obesity. Right?

Not so fast, says the first American study gauging the success of a popular initiative aimed at combating obesity: improving access to fresh produce and healthy food in the nation’s “food deserts.”

Six months after the grand opening of a new supermarket in Philadelphia, the study found, residents of the surrounding low-income neighborhood were not eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, nor were they less likely to be obese than were low-income Philadelphians across town whose neighborhood continued to be a food desert. Continue reading

Healthy food rarely convenient for urban minorities

Oct. 16, 2013, Medical Xpress

By Valerie Debenedette

Despite the prevalence of corner and convenience stores in urban neighborhoods, many residents have to travel farther to find supermarkets that offer a wide variety of healthful food choices, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study also found that supermarkets in lower income areas and with more people on public assistance had significantly less variety and offered fewer healthier foods.

A 30-block area of west and southwest Philadelphia was selected for study by the researchers. Residents were 75 percent black, 15 percent white, 6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Hispanic, with 28 percent of households living in poverty, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Continue reading

Income, not ‘food deserts,’ more to blame for U.S. obesity

Sept. 20, 2013, Gallup.com

By Kyley McGeeney and Elizabeth Mendes

In the United States, obesity in “food deserts” is above average. However, it is not solely — or even primarily — access to grocery stores that appears to be the issue — higher obesity rates are more likely to be linked to lower incomes. In other words, a lack of access to food in and of itself doesn’t matter when it comes to obesity. It only matters if Americans are also low-income. Further, income always matters, regardless of whether an individual has access to grocery stores or not.

“Food deserts” are typically defined as either an area that has limited access to grocery stores or as an area that is low income and lacks access to grocery stores. Regardless of which definition is used, what is clear is that the lack of access to grocery stores alone is not related to higher obesity rates — rather, it is more a lack of income. Continue reading