Federal food policy changes led to increased availability of healthy foods at smaller urban corner stores in Baltimore, new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research suggests. Increases in healthy food were greatest in corner stores and in neighborhoods with a majority of black residents.
Many residents of cities such as Baltimore, where the study was conducted, reside in what are known as food deserts, on blocks far from supermarkets and inhabited by people with little access to transportation. There, residents are often forced to buy food from corner and convenience stores where shelves are usually not stocked with healthy options, potentially leading to worse diets. Poor diet is one of the biggest risk factors for death and illness in the United States, responsible for more than 600,000 deaths in 2010 alone, researchers say.
By looking at the changes in healthy food availability in a sample of food stores in the city of Baltimore between 2006 and 2012, researchers found that corner stores, particularly in neighborhoods with large numbers of black residents, were modestly but significantly more likely to carry a larger number of those healthful choices. The researchers, reporting in the November issue of Health Affairs, say their findings suggest that boosting healthful food options at corner stores could be a more feasible alternative to the costly option of building supermarkets.