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Healthy Foods Harder to Find in Poor Neighborhoods
Date:3/6/2009

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According to Franco, the research suggests that supermarkets, sometimes seen as a panacea for poor neighborhoods, aren't necessarily the answer. "You have to make supermarkets, grocery stores and convenience stores offer a certain amount of healthy food. There are huge variances between the same type of food stores, depending on the neighborhood where they're located."

Franco said neither the store owners nor the residents themselves are entirely to blame. "It's a more complex system than that," he said.

In Baltimore, Franco said, researchers are working to improve the availability of healthy food by working with city officials and food store owners.

Shannon N. Zenk, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies neighborhoods and health, said incentives such as tax breaks can encourage markets to offer more healthy foods. Another strategy is to give cash subsidies to the poor for the purchase of fruits and vegetables, Zenk added.

"Obesity and numerous chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes are more prevalent in low-income than higher income neighborhoods," Zenk said. "Ensuring that residents of these neighborhoods have access to nutritious foods is a critical first step to promoting healthy eating and, in turn, reversing the obesity epidemic and preventing chronic diseases."

More information

Learn more about healthy food from Harvard University.

Eating Healthy in Any Neighborhood

Lona Sandon, assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, had these tips for finding healthy food -- even when the pickings are slim:

  • Shop early in the morning on
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