Supermarkets' power desertifies our diets

Apr 18, 2008

Urban food deserts – areas where people have low or no access to food shops – exist in major cities, according to research published in the open access publication International Journal of Health Geographics, with important implications for public health policies. In an exploration of food deserts in the Canadian city of London, Ontario, Kristian Larsen and Jason Gilliland of The University of Western Ontario Geography Department mapped and compared supermarket locations in the city in 1961 and 2005 and assess the changing levels of residents’ access.

Gilliland explained: “More and more supermarkets are building in newer suburbs and smaller food shops are disappearing from older neighbourhoods leaving food deserts in their wake. Poor people with no car can be severely adversely affected by living in food deserts and are more likely to suffer from bad health and low quality of life with diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Poor inner city residents have the poorest access to supermarkets and Central and East London were the worst affected.”

The researchers assessed people’s access to shops by foot and public transport. Geographic mapping techniques were used to map and analyze grocery store locations. Residents of several areas of the city had limited access to one of the city’s 28 supermarkets. Those people living in food deserts paid almost double the price as their supermarket shopping counterparts for supplies from small local convenience stores.

Historical analysis showed that inner city areas were not always food deserts even though the city population has doubled in the 50 years. Whereas in 1961 over 75% of the population of the urban core had easy access to a supermarket, fewer than 20% of core residents have access today.

“The bottom line is people need supermarkets and vice versa,” concluded Gilliland. “London should actively encourage supermarket development in food desert areas. We still need to find out from these desert residents what are the psychological, economic and personal effects. After all, the continued closure of supermarkets will lead to more unemployment and devastating affects on the health of an already vulnerable population.”

Source: BioMed Central

Explore further: Chemical in foam cups again seen as likely cancer cause

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Hoverbike drone project for air transport takes off

9 hours ago

What happens when you cross a helicopter with a motorbike? The crew at Malloy Aeronautics has been focused on a viable answer and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its Hoverbike project, "The ...

Study indicates large raptors in Africa used for bushmeat

9 hours ago

Bushmeat, the use of native animal species for food or commercial food sale, has been heavily documented to be a significant factor in the decline of many species of primates and other mammals. However, a new study indicates ...

'Shocking' underground water loss in US drought

10 hours ago

A major drought across the western United States has sapped underground water resources, posing a greater threat to the water supply than previously understood, scientists said Thursday.

Recommended for you

Preterm children's brains can catch up years later

46 minutes ago

There's some good news for parents of preterm babies – latest research from the University of Adelaide shows that by the time they become teenagers, the brains of many preterm children can perform almost as well as those ...

Mortality rates increase due to extreme heat and cold

1 hour ago

Epidemiological studies have repeatedly shown that death rates rise in association with extremely hot weather. The heat wave in Western Europe in the summer of 2003, for example, resulted in about 22,000 extra deaths. A team ...

It takes more than practice to excel, psychologist reports

2 hours ago

Case Western Reserve University's new assistant professor of psychology Brooke N. Macnamara, PhD, and colleagues have overturned a 20-year-old theory that people who excel in their fields are those who practiced the most.

User comments : 0