Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Do Food Deserts Matter?

Obesity is a serious problem.  It makes to invest in programs that reduce the health and social costs related to the nation's bulging waistlines.  Many activists think cities should focus on ensuring that all citizens--especially those in low income areas--have easy access to fresh fruits and vegetables.  One (very) small-scale study out of Philadelphia suggests this may not be the most efficient expenditure.   The gist:

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Penn State University report that an initial pilot study, which focused on the results from one of these grocery stores on the surrounding community, shows little effect. Without more research, they say, it’s difficult to know if these interventions are going to have any impact on obesity rates at all.

While the study only observed one store, checking in on local residents six months after its opening, the results are compelling. Only 27% of surveyed residents in the intervention area made the new supermarket their main store, and just over half of them used it for any shopping at all. And while residents perceived a greater availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, there was no significant increase in their daily intake of these foods, nor did the researchers see a significant decrease in body mass index (BMI).


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