Accessibility of Healthy Foods

 Accessing healthy food is a challenge for many families, particularly those living in low income neighborhoods, communities of color, and rural areas.

In an effort to help identify the communities that
can most benefit from targeted resources and
strategies to improve healthy food access, the United
States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and The
Reinvestment Fund have developed and launched free
data sources that assist in the identification of areas
lacking healthy food access, or food deserts. The
Food Access Research Atlas (USDA) and PolicyMap
(The Reinvestment Fund) both, with varying levels of
complexity, visually depict gaps in healthy food access
across the country.

Living closer to healthy food retail is associated with better eating habits and decreased risk for obesity and diet-related diseases.

Studies showing mixed results are reminders that
community-level factors influencing healthy eating,
such as distance to the store, or the prevalence
of fast-food outlets, will have different degrees
of salience to distinct local populations. In one
published report, contrasting results were observed
for different types of communities. A county-level
analysis of metropolitan areas, utilizing a national
data set of individual behaviors, found that as
distance to a supermarket increased, consumers are
less likely to eat five or more servings of fruits and
vegetables per day and are more likely to be obese.
However, this study also found that distance to the
supermarket has no associations with obesity or
fruit and vegetable consumption in nonmetropolitan
(e.g., rural and small town) areas

Healthy food retail stimulates economic activity.

Improving health outcomes is not the only reason for
increasing access to healthy food retail in disinvested
communities. An equally important motive is the role
of healthy food retail outlets as drivers of economic
activity. Even during times of economic downturn
and amid threats to established business models,
the supermarket and grocery store industry is a
powerful economic entity that can create jobs and
stimulate growth. The recent growth in attention
to healthy food retail has generated robust findings
documenting the scale and impact of the industry, in
general, and new innovations, in particular