How to encourage more supermarkets in poor neighborhoods

Articles
February 10, 2009

Pile one more burden on top of the well-known social strikes afflicting the poor in the United States: Their access to supermarkets that carry expansive fresh produce and other healthy foods is limited, according to a research team headed by Dr. Nicole I. Larson of the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis. After analyzing 54 studies published between 1985 and 2008 that examined food access by neighborhoods in the U.S., they wrote in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (January 2009 issue) that “while supermarkets are likely to sell the widest variety of healthy foods at the cheapest prices, convenience stores usually charge more, and tend not to sell fresh food,” reported Reuters. “There is a need for new policies and other local actions to address the problem of poor access to healthy foods in many lower income, rural and minority communities,” Larson told Reuters. By contrast, her research noted plenty of fast-food restaurants in these areas. The team cited mounting evidence that access to healthy and unhealthy foods play a role in health disparities.

Pile one more burden on top of the well-known social strikes afflicting the poor in the United States:  Their access to supermarkets that carry expansive fresh produce and other healthy foods is limited, according to a research team headed by Dr. Nicole I. Larson of the University of Minnesota, in Minneapolis.

After analyzing 54 studies published between 1985 and 2008 that examined food access by neighborhoods in the U.S., they wrote in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (January 2009 issue) that “while supermarkets are likely to sell the widest variety of healthy foods at the cheapest prices, convenience stores usually charge more, and tend not to sell fresh food,” reported Reuters.

“There is a need for new policies and other local actions to address the problem of poor access to healthy foods in many lower income, rural and minority communities,” Larson told Reuters. By contrast, her research noted plenty of fast-food restaurants in these areas.

The team cited mounting evidence that access to healthy and unhealthy foods play a role in health disparities.

Their findings from many different studies included the following, Reuters summarized:
• The likelihood that African-Americans would meet guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption rose by 32% with each additional supermarket in the census tract where they lived.
• The more supermarkets in a neighborhood, the less risk of obesity. The more convenience stores, the higher risk of obesity.
• Mostly African-American neighborhoods had half as many chain supermarkets as predominantly Caucasian neighborhoods. Hispanic areas had one-third the supermarkets of Caucasian areas.
• Healthy foods like fresh produce, low-fat dairy, high-fiber breads and leans meats were more available and higher quality in Caucasian neighborhoods.

SupermarketGuru.com believes this study has come out at the right time, with a new Federal administration focusing on the Child Nutrition Program Reauthorization   and the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, and seemingly poised to encourage a more balanced social agenda. The Larson team is onto something, we feel, when they suggest authorities could encourage more supermarkets in lower-income areas through “financial incentives, helping to conduct market feasibility studies, assistance with parking/transportation plans, and assistance with site cleanup/assembly.”