Posts Tagged ‘food deserts’

Are Food Deserts A Mirage?

February 8th, 2014

A study in California shows no relationship between food outlets and Body Mass Index BMI) but did find an association between supermarkets and BMI beyond a walking distance of 1 mile or greater. Researchers conclude that shopping patterns are weakly related, if at all, to neighborhoods because of car transportation. Another study of the Pennsylvania Fresh Foods Financing Initiative. Researchers found in this pilot study in one Philadelphia community that improved access to grocery stores improved residents’ perceptions of food accessibility. However, improved access does not lead to changes in consumption of fruits and vegetables not improvements in Body Mass Index (BMI).


Food Deserts Questioned…Again

August 25th, 2012

Is there a robust relationship between neighborhood food environments and childhood obesity? That is the question Roland Sturm and colleagues Victoria Shier and Ruopeng An set out to answer in a new paper in the journal, Public Health. Using standard definitions and a large database of 5th and 8th graders, they found “no consistent evidence across (counts of a particular type of food outlets per population, food environment indices and indicators for the presence of specific combinations of types of food stores) and outcomes to support the hypothesis that improved access to large supermarkets results in lower youth BMI, or greater exposure to fast food restaurants, convenience stores, and small food stores increases BMI.” See PubMed: Is There a Robust Relationship between Neighborhood food environment

Don’t tell Health and Human Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. In May, at the Weight of the Nation Conference, she declared that food deserts were a cause of obesity stating, “Obesity can be caused by any combination of factors. For some, it is an addiction like smoking. For others, it’s a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables near their home.” HHS_Secretary Speeches_Weight of the Nation

This may be just a case of sloppy thinking or poor staff work. More likely, it was an effort to buttress First Lady’s Michelle Obama’s major $400 million initiative to bring supermarkets to underserved areas. Let’sMove: Food desert programs. Sturm’s earlier paper had already questioned this policy. PubMed: School and residential food environment California


Doubts about food deserts don’t deter head of HHS

June 10th, 2012

The June 10th Washington Post has an insightful article on the federally-funded food desert initiative in Philadelphia. The article describes how an hypothesis (lack of access to healthy foods leads to eating unhealthy foods which leads to obesity) becomes a large experiment before research is done to determine if it is going to work. WaPo: Will Philadepphia’s experiment in eradicating food deserts

Last month, at the Weight of the Nation conference, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius took the hypothesis one step further elevating food deserts into a cause of obesity. She said, “Obesity can be caused by any combination of factors.  For some it’s an addiction like smoking.  For others it’s a lack of fresh fruits or vegetables near their home. “ This is pretty sloppy work for a conference so highly organized by the CDC and HHS. An addiction? Still being researched I believe. People are looking at whether certain foods may be “addictive” not whether excess adipose tissue itself is addictive. When a national health leader elevates putative causes like addiction and food deserts to actual causes, a disservice is done and real progress is delayed.


Is It “Deserts” or “Desserts”?

March 16th, 2012

In a new study, RAND Corporation researcher Roland Sturm, examined the food environments of 13,000 California adolescents, the proximity to fast food restaurants and supermarkets and consumption of fast food, fresh fruits and other foods. The finding: no relationship. Seems that with 97% of Californians having access to cars, what is available locally doesn’t make much difference. Also (and this should be obvious) supermarkets do not only sell healthy foods. They also sell sodas, chips, candy, pastries, etc. This is another example, I am afraid, of policy making running ahead of weak evidence. School and residential neighborhood food envir… [Am J Prev Med. 2012] – PubMed – NCBI