Study: Increased Access to Grocery Stores Not Linked to Healthy Diets
Local, state and federal policies aimed at improving access to grocery stores do little to promote healthier eating habits, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, California Watch reports.
In California, about one million people live in "food deserts," or areas with little or no access to healthy food (Lin, California Watch, 7/12).
In recent years, policymakers have sought toÂ eliminate food deserts byÂ limiting the number of fast food restaurants and encouraging grocery stores to open in low-income neighborhoods.
Such efforts were motivated by studies finding that obesity rates are lower in communities that have fewer fast food chains and more supermarkets (Hernandez, Los Angeles Times, 7/12).
For the study, researchers from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Public Health surveyed 5,115 people about their dietary habits, including fast food consumption (Reinberg, HealthDay/U.S. News & World Report, 7/11).
The participants, who were tracked between 1985 and 2001, lived in four cities:
- Birmingham, Ala.;
- Minneapolis; and
- Oakland, Calif. (Los Angeles Times, 7/12).
The study found that living close to fast food restaurants was linked with increased fast food consumption, particularly among low-income men.
However, the availability of grocery stores had little correlation with diet quality or fruit and vegetable intake, possibly because supermarkets offer both healthy and unhealthy food options, according to researchers (California Watch, 7/12).
Study author Penny Gordon-Larsen said more research is needed to determine how people make decisions about what they eat and where they purchase food. She added that broader community education initiatives focused on promoting healthy food choices could be beneficial (Pittman, Reuters, 7/11).
In related news, Assembly Speaker John PÃ©rez (D-Los Angeles) has authored a bill (AB 581) that would use state, federal and other funds to establish the California Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The program wouldÂ seek to eliminate food deserts within seven years by expanding access to grocery stores and healthy food retailers in underserved communities.
The bill is before the Senate Appropriations Committee (California Watch, 7/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.