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New Report Examines “The Grocery Gap”


Millions of Americans still lack access to healthy affordable food, particularly low-income communities, sparsely populated rural areas and communities of color, according to findings from our friends at The Food Trust and PolicyLink.

In Access to Healthy Food and Why It Matters, PolicyLink and the Food Trust review more than 170 studies examining food access in the United States, finding that hundreds of neighborhoods across the country do not have access to nutritious, affordable and high quality food. Between 25 and 30 million Americans lack access to a supermarket within a reasonable distance from their home, while there are hundreds of rural counties where all residents live several miles from a supermarket or similar store.

“Even as progress is being made to improve access in urban neighborhoods and rural communities, millions of Americans are still struggling to put healthy food on the table,” said Allison Karpyn, director of research and evaluation at The Food Trust. “We hope this new research contributes to action at the local, state, regional, and national levels to leverage resources and target efforts to the places with the greatest need.”

Compounding the access problem is the fact that many low-income neighborhoods are home to corner and liquor stores that sell mostly processed, unhealthy foods. Often, these neighborhoods do not have public transportation to reach supermarkets, meaning residents without an automobile are stuck.

The report also finds that residents with greater access to supermarkets are more likely to eat healthy, and access to that healthy food is associated with a lower risk for obesity and other diet-related chronic conditions.

In addition, the authors note that areas that have seen new healthy food retail have been revitalized. Grocery stores provide much-needed jobs in low-income neighborhoods — 24 new jobs are created for every 10,000 square feet of retail grocery space. That means a large market can generate between 150 and 200 jobs.

Given this data, the authors recommend that policymakers work to attract grocery stores and supermarkets to the underserved neighborhoods they represent. Other policy suggestions include developing retail outlets such as farmers’ markets and mobile vendors and ensuring public benefits can be used to purchase goods; increasing the stock of produce and other healthy items at corner markets; and improving public transportation to grocery stores and other retailers that sell healthy food.

Click here to read the full report.