Finding Healthy Food

The Lempert Report
April 08, 2013

The harder it is to find healthy food, the harder it is to eat a healthy diet.  

In order to maintain good nutrition and overall health it's important to have access to grocery stores and supermarkets that carry affordable, healthy food. The harder it is to find healthy food, the harder it is to eat a healthy diet.  And in fact, an important element of the First Lady's “Let's Move!” initiative is to expand the availability of nutritious foods by developing and better equipping stores in limited access communities. Two years ago USDA's Economic Research Service released the "Food Desert Locator", an online mapping tool that identifies low income census tracts where large numbers of residents face challenges in accessing the nearest grocery store.    So, what areas are defined as a "food desert"?  A few of these indicators are taken into consideration:??1) Accessibility to sources of healthy food, as measured by distance to a store or by the number of stores in an area. ?2) Individual-level resources that may affect accessibility, such as family income or vehicle availability. ?3) Neighborhood-level indicators of resources, such as the average income of the neighborhood and the availability of public transportation.??Now, this "Food Desert Locator" has been updated and renamed the "Food Access Research Atlas." The latest version of this web tool has recently updated estimates of "food deserts", expanded distance options and it also includes vehicle availability. Understanding areas where there is low access to supermarkets in addition to low access to vehicles, is a good start in addressing change. With the updated data and additional details, the "Food Access Research Atlas" becomes a very useful tool for researchers, city planners, non-profit organizations and policy makers as they make decisions that impact how all Americans can maintain healthy and nutritious diets.