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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lack of grocery stores negatively affects DC children's health

How long does it take to get to the nearest grocery store? For thousands of DC residents, this question is a deciding factor in the quality of their diet.

As the obesity epidemic ensnares an alarming number of America’s youth — DC ranks 9th nationally in childhood obesity at 35.4%— health experts are looking into the availability and affordability of nutritious food.

The idea of food deserts— the absence of grocery stores in low-income, urban neighborhoods— has been garnering some serious attention of late.

Since a greater percentage of overweight or obese children are from low-income families, access to fresh produce and healthy food choices in underserved neighborhoods is critical.

Researchers have determined a strong link between geographic proximity to a grocery store and higher daily intake of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, there is also a strong correlation between an area’s wealth and number of supermarkets — generally, the richer the neighborhood is, the more grocery stores there are.

The District is no exception.

Lynda Laughlin, a family demographer at the U.S. Census Bureau, created this Google map showing the location of supermarkets in DC. As Laughlin points out, Wards 2 and 3 have 16 grocery stores. That's one store for every 8,911 residents. Ward 4 is the most populated ward (about 75,000 people), but only has one grocery store.

“There are only three grocery stores east of the river for residents of Wards 7 and 8," according to Laughlin. "That's one store for every 47,151 residents.”

View Grocery Stores in a larger map

Since residents in low-income areas are less likely to own a car, getting across town to a supermarket can be quite a hassle. In these food deserts, corner stores fill the gap, providing convenience with arrays of packaged, processed and cheap food.

A number of children living in these areas grow up with less access to nutritious food, setting them up for a lifetime of poor eating habits.

DC SCORES helps to break that cycle by engaging kids with over 120 hours of physical activity each school year.

When the alternative is an afternoon in front of the television with a bag of chips, DC SCORES fills a crucial need in DC’s underserved neighborhoods.

-- Written by Beth Morrison, Communications and Development Assistant

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

    This is the assistant editor for Hospital.com which is a medical publication offering hospital news, information and reviews. We also cover a wide variety of medical issues, one of which being Children's Health and the importance of choosing the right hospital. You will notice articles on this topic under Children's tab. If possible I would like Hospital.com to be included within your blog roll, offering our information as a resource to your readers. Please let me know if this addition can be made.

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    Thank you
    Mary Miller,