The limited access to supermarkets, grocery stores, and affordable food makes it harder for American neighborhoods to maintain a healthy diet.
People who live in poor neighborhoods in the U.S. are less likely to have easy access to supermarkets carrying a wide variety of fresh produce and other healthy food.
Several factors may influence food insecurity, including income, employment, race/ethnicity, and disability. The risk for food insecurity increases when money to buy food is limited or not available.
Unemployment can also negatively affect a household’s food security status. High unemployment rates among low-income populations make it more difficult to meet basic household food needs. Also, children with unemployed parents have higher rates of food insecurity than children with employed parents.
Healthy foods and fresh ingredients are typically more expensive than convenient foods, such as salty snacks and microwavable meals. Also, purchasing ingredients and preparing healthy food can be time-consuming. Thus, Americans who are working several jobs to make ends meet may be unable to fit meal preparation into their busy schedules.
The studies have confirmed that minority and low-income individuals who live near supermarkets have healthier diets.
Three studies found a reduced risk of obesity among people with more supermarkets in their neighborhood; two of these studies found a link between better access to convenience stores and increased obesity risk.
Six studies in which investigators visited stores and checked out the merchandise found healthy foods were more available and of higher quality in white neighborhoods than non-white neighborhoods. Rural communities also tend to have worse access to supermarkets.
An analysis from the United States Department of Agriculture also revealed that some consumers are constrained in their ability to access affordable, nutritious food because they live far from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy access to transportation.
The possible ways to encourage supermarkets are setting up shop in lower-income neighborhoods, including financial incentives, conducting market feasibility studies, assistance with transportation plans, and assisting with site cleanup.