How your wallet affects your diet
- Friday, 15 July 2011
By now you all probably think I’ve spent my summer eating chia pudding or popsicles , living a life of leisure. I wish. But it has been a long time since I’ve brought out my public health geekery, so prepare yourselves.
One of my big interests is environmental factors that contribute to obesity, focusing mainly on nutrition. Over the years, health advocates have pushed governments and the grocery industry to focus on areas that are food deserts. A food desert is any area where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain, seen mainly in urban areas within in the US. It was thought that by providing more grocery stores individuals would be able to access a healthier diet. But a new study says that’s not so. Instead, food consumption was more closely related to fast-food availability among low-income participants and supermarket availability was unrelated to diet quality and fruit and vegetable intake. This is particularly important to understand, as fast food chains are now petitioning to accept SNAP (food stamp) benefits in several states. It also provides a need to better understand how food cost impacts food consumption, especially among low-income individuals.
The USDA recently published a study that examined the relationship of food cost by location. The study looked at seven healthy food groups (whole grains, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, whole fruit, low-fat milk (skim and 1%), fruit juice, and bottled water) and compared the prices per 100 grams with the prices of less healthy alternatives. Major findings include:
- Whole grains were more expensive than refined grains across the United States, with prices ranging from 23 percent higher (San Francisco) to more than 60 percent higher (non-metro Pennsylvania and New York) than for refined grains.
- Fresh and frozen dark green vegetables were more expensive than...