Healthful, welcoming retail eateries can draw traffic away from abundant neighborhood fast-food outlets
Food deserts have long caught blame as one driver of high obesity rates – yet food swamps may more accurately predict high obesity, suggests a recent study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy at the University of Connecticut.
The study defines a food swamp neighborhood as one where high-calorie fast food and junk food outlets outnumber healthy alternatives such as supermarkets and farmers’ markets, and a food desert neighborhood as one with limited access to nutritious, affordable food. The study, which ran last November in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, contends it was the first to compare food swamps to food deserts, and to associate them with obesity rates using county-level data across the United States.
Findings showed that the presence of unhealthy food outlets correlated strongest with obesity rates “in counties with greater income inequality and where residents are less mobile.”
The Great Grocerant urges retailers to act on these insights to win local customers away from fast-food eateries.
To attract diners with less money, for example, message repeatedly that your grocerants offer quick grab-and-go salads, sliders, soups, protein packs and deli sandwiches that cost about the same as a combo at a fast-food restaurant. Offer free coffee or a free fountain beverage during certain hours to sweeten the deal. Offer coupons too, promote offerings on social media, and set up stations outside in nice weather.
The more neighborhood residents know about your healthier, affordable meal and snack solutions – and the more they think of your grocerants as community hubs where they can socialize – the faster their health and loyalty to your stores can build.