Food Deserts

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Food Deserts Not Strongly Connected to Obesity, Study Shows

(GraphiChris/Flickr)

(GraphiChris/Flickr)

A new study found “no strong evidence” that being within walking distance to food outlets was associated with being obese or not.

Researchers at UCLA and the Rand Corporation analyzed data from the California Health Interview Survey — nearly 100,000 people were included — and published their findings in Preventing Chronic Disease.

The L.A. Times picks up the story:

Given the attention to the idea of food deserts – areas with limited access to healthful food – and their effect on people’s health, the researchers wanted to find how much it mattered to have stores and restaurants within walking distance, which they defined as a mile from home.

But the number of fast-food outlets within three miles of home was associated with eating more fast food, fried potatoes and caloric soft drinks, and with less frequent consumption of produce, the researchers said. And they found that the number of large supermarkets within 1.5 miles and three miles of home was associated with drinking fewer caloric soft drinks.

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Are Poor Neighborhoods Really Food Deserts?

(John Henry Mostyn: Flickr)

(John Henry Mostyn: Flickr)

Proponents of public health have long worried about “food deserts”– but it took First Lady Michelle Obama to put the expression on the map when she launched her “Let’s Move” campaign. A food desert brings to mind an impoverished neighborhood where the main streets are lined with fast-food outlets or convenience stores with nary a full-scale supermarket to be found. ”Lack of access contributes to poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. But, this is a solvable problem,” it says on the Let’s Move website.

And to solve the problem the Administration has pledged to end food deserts within seven years by helping communities invest in healthier food outlets.

“I never bought into the ‘supermarkets make you thinner’ story.”
It sounds laudable, but new research finds that food deserts may not be so barren after all. Helen Lee at the Public Policy Institute of California, set out to look at food deserts, expecting to find that they were the widespread problem they’ve been reported to be. Instead she found something very different.

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