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Urban poor plagued by 'burdens of place'
Date:8/9/2012

EAST LANSING, Mich. Most of America's urban cores were designed for walking but offer little in the way of supermarkets, healthy restaurants and other amenities for residents to walk to, according to a study led by a Michigan State University scholar.

The study is one of the first to show that poor residents living in declining urban neighborhoods want healthy food choices evidenced by their willingness to travel long distances to find them. Past research has generally assumed that poor people will shop at whatever store is closest.

But compared with suburban residents, the urban poor are more overweight and must travel farther to find healthy food and access personal services, said Igor Vojnovic, associate professor of geography and lead author on the study.

"This research reveals that the lack of access to basic amenities in declining inner-city neighborhoods what we call the 'burdens of place' is an important variable in shaping travel and diet," Vojnovic said.

Vojnovic and colleagues studied the Lansing, Mich., area by surveying urban and suburban residents, collecting socioeconomic data and using digital mapping to plot average distances to stores, restaurants, doctors' offices, banks, skating rinks and other amenities.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Urban Design, found that poor urban residents were significantly overweight, with an average body mass index of 28.73, while wealthy suburbanites were only slightly overweight, with an average BMI of 25.05. (For adults, a BMI of 25 is considered overweight and 30 is obese.)

Other findings included:

  • Fast food restaurants were more plentiful in poor neighborhoods. In addition, residents there reported that 55 percent of all dining-out experiences were at fast food eateries, compared with only 13 percent for those in the suburbs.

  • Poor urban residents had to go nearly twice as far as suburbanites to sh
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Contact: Andy Henion
henion@msu.edu
517-355-3294
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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