Gap in diet quality between wealthiest and poorest Americans doubles, study finds

Sept. 1, 2014, National Geographic

By Tracie McMillan

The diets of low-income Americans have worsened in the past decade, even as the diets of the wealthiest Americans have improved, according to a new study that is among the first to measure changes in diet quality over time by socioeconomic status. Overall diet quality in the United States remains poor, said the lead author of the study, published Sept. 1 in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

Although the study found that the diet of all Americans improved on average between 2005-2010, the progress masked a decline in diet quality among the poor. The result: a doubling of the gap in diet quality between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest.

The study attributed the change to the higher cost of convenient and healthy meals, as well as limited access to quality supermarkets in some poorer neighborhoods. Continue reading

Farmers market vouchers may help low-income families eat healthier

July 24, 2014, HealthDay

Giving low-income families vouchers to buy fruits and vegetables at farmers markets could increase their consumption of these healthy foods, according to a new study.

Low-income families tend to eat fewer fruits and vegetables. In addition to not having adequate access to healthy foods, cost is also an issue. Farmers market vouchers could help address both of these obstacles, the researchers noted.

“In terms of healthy food options, farmers market incentives may be able to bring a low-income person onto the same playing field as those with greater means,” study author Carolyn Dimitri, an associate professor of food studies at NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, said in a university news release.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits (previously known as food stamps) are accepted at one in four farmers markets in the United States. The researchers pointed out these benefits normally can be used to buy any type of food, including ice cream or soda. Continue reading

RWJF infographic explains positive impact of healthier school meals

A new infographic from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) draws on the best of RWJF-funded research to show how 30+ million kids in the United States have healthier school meal options than children had 10 years ago.

Released June 9, “Healthier School Meals Matter” highlights the positive impact of healthy school meals on kids’ choices and obesity rates, particularly among children from low-income families. Check it out below, and read more about the infographic here.<!–more–>

rwjf_school_lunch_graphic

Less sleep linked with obesity in low-income kids

April 26, 2014, Huffington Post

Kids from low-income homes who get less sleep at night may have a higher risk of obesity, a small new study suggests.

Researchers from the Rush University Prevention Center examined several potential obesity risk factors — including food intake and screen time — in addition to sleep, and found that sleep duration was the only factor directly associated with low-income children’s weight.

Specifically, children of normal weight slept for 33.3 more minutes than children who were overweight or obese in the study.

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine; because they have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, they should be regarded as preliminary.

The study included 6-to 13-year-olds from 103 low-income, urban households. Researchers analyzed their diets, amount of screen time, and sleep, and took note of what food, electronics, and sports equipment they had in their homes and bedrooms. Continue reading

Access to healthy food improves health, brings economic benefits

Feb. 20, 2014, Huffington Post

Access to healthy food can bring triple bottom-line benefits to communities — better health, new jobs, and a revitalized economy. But nearly 30 million Americans still live in low-income areas with limited access to supermarkets. The problem is particularly acute in low-income communities of color.

The good news is Congress took steps to expand access to healthy food last week, including a $125 million authorization for the national Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) in the nearly $1 trillion farm bill. To improve access, the program invests in the development and expansion of food retail businesses and food hubs that in return can bring much-needed jobs and spur economic revitalization in low-income neighborhoods.

Bringing healthy food retail into neighborhoods that have historically lacked access is a key strategy within a multifaceted approach to improve the food environment and advance community well-being. PolicyLink, The Food Trust, and The Reinvestment Fund have been working with local, state, and national healthy food advocates for years to expand fresh food access in underserved areas throughout the United States. Continue reading

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

Screen time again linked to kids’ extra weight

Nov. 25, 2013, Reuters

Children and teenagers who spend lots of time in front of screens – especially TVs – tend to gain more weight as they age, according to a new study.

The findings are consistent with research suggesting all that idle sitting and exposure to advertisements may fuel poor eating habits…

Many parents believe their children are getting a reasonable amount of recreational screen time, Mark Tremblay said. But most U.S. and Canadian kids exceed the recommended two-hour maximum per day.

“We don’t pay attention to the fact that it’s half an hour here, half an hour there, an hour here, an hour there,” Tremblay told Reuters Health. He is the director of Healthy Active Living and Obesity Research at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa, Canada, and wasn’t involved in the new study.

Researchers used data from a long-term study of kids who took surveys every other year. The surveys included questions about their height and weight as well as how much time they spent watching TV and DVDs and playing computer and video games. Continue reading

Obesity rates decline among low-income preschoolers after rising for decades

Aug. 6, 2013, The Washington Post

By Lena H. Sun

After decades of rising, obesity rates among low-income U.S. preschoolers declined broadly from 2008-2011, according to a federal report released Aug. 6 that offered the first glimpse of good news for children considered among the most vulnerable to the disease’s health risks.

While other, smaller studies have cited drops among school-age children, the data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) represent by far the largest and most comprehensive report of declining obesity rates in poor children, officials said. Continue reading