Indy grocers fill nutrition gap where chains won't go
To the 60s refrain ‘you are what you eat,’ let’s now add ‘you eat where you live.’ Some 40 years after digesting the first premise, we’re being told in a new study that a neighborhood’s food environment largely determines the healthiness of the local diet and the amount of fruits and vegetables consumed.
A study in the American Journal of Health Promotion (March-April 2009 issue) rightfully points out there are many geographic pockets where chains won’t go—and that independent grocers who fill the vacuum can mine the huge opportunity of health. On average, the presence of a large supermarket in a neighborhood raised the average fruit and vegetable intake by 0.69 servings per day.
The finding suggests that ethnic groups’ nutritional habits may be equally driven by access to the right foods and dietary motives. Indeed, Latinos with a large local grocery store ate 2.2 more servings daily than did African-Americans, according to an account of the research on Health Behavior News Service (HBNS).
“Large grocery stores may be important nutritional resources in neighborhoods,” said lead author Shannon Zank, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Nursing, in a great understatement.
SupermarketGuru.com sees this as one more notch in a growing body of research that lashes food retailers for their inability or unwillingness to open in certain neighborhoods, when it is so obvious that better foods in these areas could lead in turn to a healthier populace, and especially a more attentive and successful group of youthful students. Perhaps a new round of civic programs and government incentives could entice a greater presence of healthful foods in more ‘bad’ neighborhoods.
That would at least help give people in these areas a better chance to eat well—something that many innately do when they are able. Sanae Inagami, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh (no affiliation with the study), told HBNS that immigrants generally have healthier eating habits than U.S.-born Americans, even those of similar ethnicity.
This, of course, makes current retail practice all the more shameful.