Jung Sun Lee
Athens, Ga. – Most convenience stores have a wide variety of chips, colorful candies and bottles of sugar-sweetened carbonated beverages. While shoppers can buy calorie-heavy foods wrapped in pretty packages in these locations, what they usually can’t find are the fresh produce, whole grains and low-fat dairy products necessary for a healthy diet.
These stores are the only nearby food source for millions of Americans living in what are called food deserts, because they are isolated from affordable healthy food. In recent studies, University of Georgia foods and nutrition researchers uncovered the unequal distribution of food stores in one Southeast community. The first study covered access to stores for people using food stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, while the second study looked at what healthy foods were available at supermarkets, grocery and convenience stores. Both studies found access to healthy food is most problematic in low-income, predominately black neighborhoods.
“Easy access to affordable healthful foods is essential to promoting health and preventing diseases,” said Jung Sun Lee, assistant professor in the UGA College of Family and Consumer Sciences and co-author of a pair of studies examining the food environment on the Florida Panhandle.