For decades, studies have told us that millions of Americans from low-income neighborhoods live in “food deserts” or areas without access to healthy, affordable foods. This means there isn’t a supermarket within a mile of their home, thus making it difficult to eat healthily. New findings suggest that food deserts are not only something of a myth, but that access to nutritious, high-quality foods does not correspond to better diet, The New York Times‘ Gina Kolata reports.
Dr. Helen Lee of the Public Policy Institute of California found that while poor communities had an abundance of convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and corner stores that sell cheap, high-fat foods, they also had “nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile” as wealthier neighborhoods, Kolata writes.
In another study of more than 13,000 California people aged 5 to 17 years, researchers found no relationship between food environment (measured by the density and distance of fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores and large supermarkets) and what kids ate.
It is always easy to advocate for more grocery stores,” Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd centre for Food Policy and Obesity told Kolata. “But if you are looking for what you hope will change obesity, healthy food access is probably just wishful thinking.”