More Work Needed on Food Deserts

November 23, 2012 — That’s right. We said "deserts" as in the Mojave, not the treat that’s served at the end of a meal. Food deserts are places where the lack of a variety of readily-available fresh fruits and vegetables means people have a hard time eating in a healthy manner. Researchers at Michigan State University wanted to see if heavily subsidizing the price of fruits and vegetables in a neighborhood in Detroit encouraged people to adopt healthier eating patterns.

They did this by observing what happened when a local subsidy program for fruits and vegetables teamed up with a mobile produce product. They found that people increased their fruit purchases by 67%, their vegetable purchases by 6%, and their combined purchases by 56%. However, the problem is more complex. In a follow-up survey, many of the people in the target community hadn’t heard of the program, and fewer than half had access to a car, cooking facilities, safe food storage, or utilities. Still others couldn’t carry the sometimes 10 lb bag of fruits and vegetables to their home after picking it up. More research is needed on consumers in food deserts to develop effective interventions.

You can read the NPR story here and the study in Choices here