Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Myth: We have more food available than ever in the U.S.

Answer: TRUE, but...

We DO have more food available than ever before in the U.S., but is it the kind of food that promotes good health? A 2010 multi-city study found that snack foods are sold in 96% of pharmacies, 94% of gas stations, 22% of furniture stores and 16% of apparel stores. Furniture stores?! I recall walking into a chain shoe store a few years ago. As I walked from aisle-to-aisle, I ran right into a vending machine selling mostly soda. The vending machine wasn’t in the employee section of the store, but in the retail space.

Studies have shown that those living in low-income areas have 25% fewer chain supermarkets compared with middle-income areas. Areas with a predominantly black population have about half the number of these chains compared to areas that are predominantly white. Areas with mostly Latino residents have a third of that number. The type of store available may influence our health. Those that live within a mile of a supermarket may have a healthier diet than those who don’t. Twenty percent of rural counties are considered rural food deserts — meaning all people live more than 10 miles from a supermarket or supercenter.

Most recent data show that there was a 9.6% increase in farmers markets in the U.S. A total of 7,864 current farmers markets now exist, based on a self-reported directory available at Studies find that those who live near supermarkets or in areas where fresh produce is sold (supermarkets, grocery stores, farmers markets, etc.) and have more of these stores as compared to stores that don’t sell such healthy foods (such as corner stores) have lower rates of diet-related diseases than those living in neighborhoods with less access to food.

More information about where to buy and how to select seasonal fruits and vegetables is available in the University of Missouri Extension publication Seasonal and simple. For more information about how to access this publication, including how to download the Seasonal and simple app, go to

Contributor: Ellen Schuster, M.S., R.D., Associate State Specialist, University of Missouri Extension,, 573-882-1933

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