Healthy food rarely convenient for urban minorities

October 16, 2013 by Valerie Debenedette
Healthy food rarely convenient for urban minorities

Despite the prevalence of corner and convenience stores in urban neighborhoods, many residents have to travel farther to find supermarkets that offer a wide variety of healthful food choices, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The study also found that supermarkets in lower income areas and with more people on public assistance had significantly less variety and offered fewer healthier foods.

A 30-block area of West and Southwest Philadelphia was selected for study by the researchers. Residents were 75 percent black, 15 percent white, 6 percent Asian, and 1 percent Hispanic, with 28 percent of households living in poverty, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

Researchers audited 373 neighborhood stores for the quality and variety of , such as low-fat dairy products, lean meats, and fresh fruits and vegetables; higher scores signified more healthy choices. Nearly 80 percent of food outlets audited were corner or convenience stores that received significantly lower scores.

The researchers also surveyed more than 500 people in the area about their family food shopping. For nearly 90 percent of those surveyed, corner and were the closest places to home to buy food. But only about a third of the people said they bought most of their food at such stores. Respondents reported choosing to shop at a supermarket with a better variety of healthful foods that was an average of more than a mile further than the closest supermarket to their home.

"People rarely said that they did their primary food shopping there. They traveled beyond the closest store," said Carolyn Cannuscio, Sc.D., assistant professor of family medicine and community health at the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and lead author on the study.

The study's findings shed light on what are called "food deserts," rural or urban areas where there are few or no places to buy fruits, vegetables or healthy foods. "When we think about why lower income people are at higher risk for obesity or disease, we can see there is a difference in the availability of high quality food closer to people's homes." Cannuscio said.

"From a dietician's standpoint, these findings are exciting," said Libby Mills, MS, RDN, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and a dietician in private practice in Philadelphia. "This is our overall hope, that when people have access to nutritional food they will choose it."

Both Mills and Cannuscio noted that there have been several efforts in Philadelphia to increase the availability of healthy in the inner city. Several supermarkets, farmers' markets, and co-ops have opened in Philadelphia in the last few years, Mills noted. Public health organizations have also helped corner stores add refrigerated cases that allow them to sell fruits and vegetables, she added. "Philadelphia is now a role model for other major cities."

Explore further: If you stock it, will they buy it?

More information: Cannuscio, C., Tappe, K. and Hillier, A. et al. (2013), Urban food environments and residents' shopping behaviors, Am J Prev Med.

Related Stories

If you stock it, will they buy it?

February 14, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- When it comes to offering healthy food in the local corner store, supply can impact demand, according to a study by University of Connecticut researchers. The study, published in the journal Public Health ...

Healthy foods missing from stores in low-income black neighborhoods, study finds

February 23, 2012
Most convenience stores have a wide variety of chips, colorful candies and bottles of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages. While shoppers can buy calorie-heavy foods wrapped in pretty packages in these locations, what they ...

Research takes a new approach to identifying 'food deserts'

February 15, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—University of Cincinnati-led research takes a new direction in examining the availability of healthy foods for urban populations by examining the commuting patterns of its residents.

More food stores open, but areas still lack access

December 12, 2012
Researchers and students at the Tulane Prevention Research Center mapped the Orleans Parish food environment this fall in their annual study of food stores and fast-food outlets. And for some of those stores, they also looked ...

Recommended for you

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

When vegetables are closer in price to chips, people eat healthier, study finds

November 16, 2017
When healthier food, like vegetables and dairy products, is pricier compared to unhealthy items, like salty snacks and sugary sweets, Americans are significantly less likely to have a high-quality diet, a new Drexel University ...

Children's exposure to secondhand smoke may be vastly underestimated by parents

November 15, 2017
Four out of 10 children in the US are exposed to secondhand smoke, according to the American Heart Association. A new Tel Aviv University study suggests that parents who smoke mistakenly rely on their own physical senses ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.