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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Study Points to Grocery Store Gap, Inequity in Access to Healthy Foods in Seattle Area

Seattle neighborhoods that are lower income or that have more Black or Hispanic residents have fewer options for healthy foods, more fast food restaurants and longer travel times to stores that sell produce, according to a new study by the University of Washington School of Public Health and the public health department for Seattle and King County, Washington.

The study surveyed 134 food stores throughout Seattle including superstores, supermarkets, grocery stores, drug stores and small convenience stores. Researchers measured the availability and price of healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat milk. Results showed that superstores and supermarkets had more healthy foods than grocery stores, drug stores and small stores.

When looking at differences in food availability by race and income, researchers found a major disparity.

“Lower-income neighborhoods tend to have small stores and convenience stores, which on average offered fewer of the 21 healthy food items we looked for than say, a supermarket,” lead author Dr. Jessica Jones-Smith told Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Public Health Insider. Dr. Jones-Smith is an associate professor of health services and epidemiology and core faculty member in the Nutritional Sciences Program at the UW School of Public Health.

Among the stores located in higher-income neighborhoods, there were four more healthy foods on average than stores in lower-income neighborhoods. Stores in neighborhoods with more Black or Hispanic residents had about three less healthy foods than stores in mostly white neighborhoods.

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