Corner-stores-in-New-Orleans-fail-to-compensate-for-disparities-in-healthy-food-access

Corner stores in New Orleans fail to compensate for disparities in healthy food access

Corner stores in New Orleans fail to compensate for disparities in healthy food access
Healthscaping – Issue 8
May 25, 2010

Low-income and African American neighborhoods in New Orleans are not deficient in spirit or soul these days, but one thing community members do find lacking is access to fresh, healthy foods.

Numerous studies across the United States draw attention to the disparities that exist in access to fresh food providers. It’s well known that African American and low-income neighborhoods have limited or no access to full-service grocery stores, and instead are surrounded by corner stores. Yet none of these studies investigate the foods “other store types” actually carry.

A recent article published in Preventive Medicine goes beyond access to store type and investigates the shelf space dedicated to certain foods to determine whether shops like corner stores compensate for the lack of supermarkets in African American neighborhoods.

Bodor and colleagues determined that African American neighborhoods in New Orleans had less access to supermarkets, and that while access to other store types did not compensate for the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables, they did compensate for the availability of high-calorie snack foods.

The study obtained a listing of food stores open in 2004-2005 from the local health department. Shelf space dedicated to fruits, vegetables, and energy-dense snack foods was measured in a sample of these food stores. Data from the 2000 census were used to define New Orleans neighborhoods. Census tracts comprised of at least 80 percent African Americans were designated as predominantly African American neighborhoods, while all others were defined as mixed-racial.

African American neighborhoods had less access to supermarkets and greater access to small food stores and general merchandise stores than mixed-race neighborhoods. Additionally, they had significantly less fresh and frozen fruit and vegetable shelf space available than mixed-racial neighborhoods. However, there was no difference in the availability of canned fruits and vegetables nor did the availability of energy-dense snack foods differ.

“This study suggests that the other food store types commonly found in African American neighborhoods do not offset the relative lack of supermarkets in the provision of some healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Bodor, lead author on the study. “In light of the growing evidence suggesting that neighborhood food environments may influence dietary intake, racial disparities in healthy food access is a significant public health concern and may partially explain the poorer health outcomes seen in minority communities.”

Click here to view the full article, “Disparities in food access: Does aggregate availability of key foods from other stores offset the relative lack of supermarkets in African-American neighborhoods” published in Preventive Medicine.

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Topics:   obesity , food environment

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