Ensuring access to healthy, affordable foods is a top priority in tackling the obesity epidemic in the United States. Over the course of the last six months, the Institute of Medicine, United States Department of Agriculture, The White House and First Lady Michelle Obama have taken an interest in improving access to affordable and nutritious foods.
Here in Seattle, Adam Drewnowski, UW professor of epidemiology, and his team are tackling the same issue. Remember the "fat zip codes" that predicted obesity rates from a few years ago? Drewnowski and his team were the brains behind that, as well as last summer's study which showed that grocery prices in Seattle varied greatly between one supermarket chain and another.
Now, researchers at the UW Center for Public Health Nutrition, UW Urban Form Lab and the Nutritional Sciences Program in the School of Public Health are asking: "Who buys what foods, why, where, and for how much?"
The answers might surprise you. Most studies have used distance to the nearest supermarket as the best predictor of whether people have good diets and better health. But Drewnowski and team say that's not true. "Six out of seven people shopped for food outside their immediate neighborhood," he said "The closest supermarket for most people was less than a mile away, but people chose the market that was more than three miles away." Driving further to save money on groceries is common. For that reason, physical proximity to a supermarket may not, by itself, assure a healthy diet. "Money does matter," Drewnowski said.
Areas where access to healthy affordable foods is scarce have become known as "food deserts." Seattle, however, is well-supplied with supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers markets and other vendors, said Drewnowski. "We do not see evidence of significant food deserts," he said. In comparison with other areas in the state, public transportation is also prevalent and accessible, so people can ta
|Contact: Mary Guiden|
University of Washington