Last week, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said that there was a time when President Obama had to hop on a bus if he wanted to get some fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s unknown whether that was when he was a child sampling dog, or later in life when he was a community organizer. Either way, I’m sure Mr. Donovan will be happy to find out that some new studies show food desserts aren’t that bad after all. The Global Post has the good news.
Food deserts, the term used to describe poor, urban neighborhoods thought to be devoid of healthy food options, may not be as deserted as we think, according to new research reported by the New York Times.
Two new studies have challenged the common perception of food activists that lower-class urban areas have less access to fruits and vegetables and thus higher obesity rates.
One study, from the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, found that poor neighborhoods had nearly twice the amount of convenience stores and fast food restaurants as affluent areas, but also had access to more large supermarkets and chain grocery stores per square mile than their wealthier counterparts, Slate reported.
“It is always easy to advocate for more grocery stores,” Kelly D. Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, told the Times. “But if you are looking for what you hope will change obesity, healthy food access is probably just wishful thinking.”
The other study, by the Santa-Monica-based RAND Corporation, focused on child obesity based on proximity to healthy and unhealthy food choices. The researchers, who studied over 13,000 Californian children aged 5 to 17, found that students’ weight and the types of food they ate were unaffected by the supermarkets or restaurants around them, according to Slate.
Within a couple of miles of almost any urban neighborhood, “you can get basically any type of food,” Roland Sturm, the lead author of the RAND Corporation study, told the Times. “Maybe we should call it a food swamp rather than a desert.”(Read More)