behavior · community · health

Obesity crisis: Does a lack of grocery stores make poor neighborhoods fatter? | OregonLive

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Interesting follow-up article to a post I linked to earlier this week about people creating “food corridors” in Olympia, WA; according to this study, simply installing grocery stores “oases” doesn’t solve the problem:

There was never much hard science linking the obesity epidemic to so-called food deserts – inner city neighborhoods lacking stores selling fresh produce. One of the largest relevant studies, published July 11, found that having a nearby supermarket or grocery made no difference in the amount of fruits and vegetables people ate or the overall quality of their diets.

Being surrounded by fast food restaurants was linked to more frequent fast food dining – but only among low-income men. In that group, a 1 percent increase in the number of nearby fast food outlets appeared to increase the number of weekly fast food meals by 0.13 percent to 0.34 percent. That’s not a huge difference, but the researchers concluded that their findings “provide some evidence for zoning restrictions on fast food restaurants.”

Study author Penny Gordon-Larsen, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Reuters Health that researchers need to do more work to understand how people make decisions about what to eat, and that improving eating habits is likely to require broad efforts including community education.

“It’s not simply enough to introduce a grocery store,” she said…

In more bluntly stated commentary, the Economist asserts that the focus on food retailers may be misguided: “Open a full-service supermarket in a food desert and shoppers tend to buy the same artery-clogging junk food as before–they just pay less for it. The unpalatable truth seems to be that some Americans simply do not care to eat a balanced diet, while others, increasingly, cannot afford to.”

more via Obesity crisis: Does a lack of grocery stores make poor neighborhoods fatter? | OregonLive.com.

I think the Economist may have a point; if people are used to eating a certain way, and don’t understand the value of eating fresh fruits and veggies over cheaper-less-healthful foods, then they won’t stop buying soda and chips, mainly because they are usually cheaper and taste better stronger.

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