Where Do Food Desert Residents Buy Most of Their Junk Food? Supermarkets

Published in: Public Health Nutrition, 2016

Posted on RAND.org on October 20, 2016

by Christine Anne Vaughan, Deborah Cohen, Madhumita Ghosh Dastidar, Gerald Hunter, Tamara Dubowitz

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Research Question

  1. Where do residents of food deserts purchase healthy and unhealthy food?

To examine where residents in an area with limited access to healthy foods (an urban food desert) purchased healthier and less healthy foods. Food shopping receipts were collected over a one-week period in 2013. These were analysed to describe where residents shopped for food and what types of food they bought. Two low-income, predominantly African-American neighbourhoods with limited access to healthy foods in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. Two hundred and ninety-three households in which the primary food shoppers were predominantly female (77·8 %) and non-Hispanic black (91·1 %) adults. Full-service supermarkets were by far the most common food retail outlet from which food receipts were returned and accounted for a much larger proportion (57·4 %) of food and beverage expenditures, both healthy and unhealthy, than other food retail outlets. Although patronized less frequently, convenience stores were notable purveyors of unhealthy foods. Findings highlight the need to implement policies that can help to decrease unhealthy food purchases in full-service supermarkets and convenience stores and increase healthy food purchases in convenience stores.

Key Findings

  • Full-service supermarkets were by far the most common food retail outlet from which food receipts were returned.
  • Supermarkets accounted for a much larger proportion (57.4%) of food and beverage expenditures—both healthy and unhealthy—than other food retail outlets.
  • Although patronized less frequently, convenience stores were notable purveyors of unhealthy food.

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