How grocery store coupons can encourage healthful eating

April 10, 2014, The Washington Post

By Lenny Bernstein

Grocery coupons aren’t associated with nutritious food. Big chains use them to lure you into the store, offering discounts mostly on processed food and snacks. When researchers looked at 1,056 coupons available online for supermarkets nationwide, they found that the largest share (25 percent) were for “processed snack foods, candies, and desserts.” Another 14 percent offered price breaks on prepared meals, 11 percent were for cereals, and 12 percent were for beverages, more than half of which were sodas, juices, and energy or sports drinks.

Just 3 percent offered discounts on vegetables, 1 percent were for unprocessed meats, and fewer than 1 percent provided breaks on fruit prices. And those fruits were canned, not fresh.

If stores make “the unhealthier option less expensive and easier to purchase, we can’t be surprised when [people] purchase it,” said Andrea Lopez, a research analyst at the University of California-San Francisco School of Medicine, who helped conduct the study. It was published in March in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal, Preventing Chronic Disease. Continue reading

Low-income families don’t limit shopping to ‘food deserts’

March 20, 2014, MinnPost

By Cynthia Boyd

Social-welfare experts have long assumed poor people, hampered by transportation difficulties, grocery-shop close to home at small corner groceries or convenience stores — “food deserts” that mostly offer high-sugar, highly processed, less-nutritious foods.

Inner city neighborhoods, particularly, have worried public-health officials who want to expand the availability of nutritious foods for low-income families.

But fresh research from the University of Minnesota, while far from suggesting that food deserts aren’t a problem, does indicate that lower-income Minnesotans who receive government aid to put food on the table go the distance for their food buys. 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