Proximity to supermarkets may not impact dietary habit A study published in Public Health Nutrition shows that opening full-service supermarkets in neighborhoods considered to be “food deserts” may not result in healthful dietary habits or reductions in childhood obesity.
Low-income and minority children are disproportionately affected by obesity, and children residing in low-income and minority neighborhoods are less likely to have access to healthful food options than children living in wealthier neighborhoods. Many have hoped that greater access to healthful food retail outlets could reduce the incidence of childhood obesity.
The researchers compared two neighborhoods in the Bronx in New York City:
Morrisania, where a new, government supported, full-service supermarket was placed, and Highbridge, where no new market was built. They surveyed caregivers of young children, ages 3-10, living in those neighborhoods.
Shopping and consumption information was collected from them prior to the opening of the market, five weeks after it opened, and again one year after the store opened.
The researchers analyzed 2,172 street intercept surveys and 363 dietary recalls from a sample of predominantly low-income minorities. They found that while there were small, inconsistent changes in diet over the time periods, there were no appreciable differences in availability of healthful or unhealthful foods at home, or in children’s dietary intake as a result of the presence of the supermarket.
The authors point out that further research is needed to determine whether healthy food retail expansion can improve food choices of children and their families, including where best to place these stores, under what circumstances they will be successful, and with what other policies or programs they should be coupled