Food access: It’s complicated.

As prep for a forthcoming review I have of Mary Mazzio’s lovely documentary on New York City’s Green Carts, The Apple Pushers,  I’m finding I need a one-stop link to studies that complicate our understanding of food access.

Herewith:

  • The Institute of Medicine held a symposium on the topic in 2009. Most notably, they found that the only direct nutritional link to obesity was overconsumption of sweetened beverages, aka soda; limited access to fresh food was not direclty correlated with obesity.
  • A 2006 report from Mari Gallagher consulting group, analyzing food access and health outcomes in Chicago, suggested that food balance—i..e not overwhelming healhty food options with unhealthy ones—is as, or more, important than food access.
  • A 2009 USDA report found that easy access to all kinds of food, rather than limited access to healthy foods, was more closely related to rises in obesity.

There’s also the recent survey of 1,500 low-income families by advocacy and service group Cooking Matters, which found that:

most low-income families are satisfied with the availability of good food…The greater obstacles to healthy meals are planning skills, time and, yes, price.

“Lunch Line”: A Meaty Lesson for Moviegoers

The Atlantic • June 10, 2010

How did it get so hard to feed kids healthy food?

This inquiry undergirds most recent efforts to examine what we feed our kids in school, yet from Two Angry Moms to Jamie Oliver’s School Food Revolution, the focus has tended to be on documenting what is wrong with school lunch: the chicken nuggets, the greasy crackerbread pizza, the nacho cheeze products, and the mozzarella sticks. But it’s the former question that matters most if school lunch is going to change—and that is precisely where Lunch Line, Uji Films’s ambitious new documentary that premiered in mid-May, makes its mark. Continue reading ““Lunch Line”: A Meaty Lesson for Moviegoers”

Corner Store Cornucopia

Good • March 19, 2008

At Romano’s Grocery, a small bodega in northeast Philadelphia, former staples like beef jerky are suddenly hard to find. That’s because last December, Juan Carlos Romano renovated his old establishment and ‘created what many hope will become a national model: the healthy corner store. With assistance from Philadelphia’s Food Trust, a food advocacy group, Romano is pairing a sustainable makeover-low-energy coolers and lights-with a transformation of his store’s wares, from packaged and processed to fresh and healthy. Studies have found that for each additional supermarket in a given area, fruit and vegetable consumption increases by as much as 32 percent. By increasing access to fresh produce in Romano’s neighborhood, the Food Trust hopes it can improve community health and, if the plan works, expand the program to other areas. There’s no official verdict on the store’s success yet, but David Nixon, a diabetic and regular customer, was pleased on opening day: “I’d rather have an apple than a Little Debbie,” he says. Continue reading “Corner Store Cornucopia”

Supermarkets Won’t Solve Obesity, But Bodegas Might

HuffingtonPost.com • Nov. 6, 2007

The lack of healthy food in our nation’s poorest communities is finally making it into public discussion, but there’s a tricky hurdle we’ve yet to get around: How to fix it. The most obvious solution–bring in food stores like supermarkets, which are correlated with people eating more fruits and vegetables–is a bureaucratic nightmare. “Food deserts,” typically located in poor urban areas, usually come with limited building sites, hefty regulations and market realities that differ dramatically from the suburbs where supermarkets perfected their business model. Continue reading “Supermarkets Won’t Solve Obesity, But Bodegas Might”

More Markets, Better Health?

City Limits Weekly • April 16, 2007

Harlem— New York City is eyeing a new target for promoting health among Gotham’s poor: supermarkets.

On Friday, the city’s food policy coordinator, Benjamin Thomases, sat in on a briefing about the nuts and bolts of bringing supermarkets into low-income neighborhoods. “We’re definitely looking at the issues of access to healthy food,” said Thomases, who said the city has been meeting with local food industry players, from biggies like Pathmark – whose extremely successful store on 125th Street in Harlem is generally considered a model project – down to the Washington Heights-based National Association of Bodega Owners, to discuss possible strategies. Continue reading “More Markets, Better Health?”

The Anxiety of Appetite

Salon • Jan. 23, 2007

America’s food enthusiasts may find it hard to place the name Barry Glassner. He’s not a television chef, or a restaurant critic, or a diet guru. Indeed, the University of Southern California sociologist is known primarily for his best-selling 2000 book, “The Culture of Fear,” a dissection of the anxious underpinnings of the American psyche. It’s a subject that might seem to have little relevance to the dinner table, but Glassner begs to differ. If his latest book, “The Gospel of Food,” makes one thing plain, it’s that few topics generate more worry among Americans than our breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Continue reading “The Anxiety of Appetite”

Farmer Delivers to the Bronx: High Health, Low Fat and Cost

City Limits • Oct. 23, 2006

The Bronx’s La Antillana supermarket is getting some stiff competition from an unlikely source: the schoolyard of P.S. 28, across East Tremont Avenue in the Mount Hope neighborhood. Last Thursday, public health leaders and community activists announced the Mount Hope Food Project, a new program aimed at preventing obesity by expanding access to healthy food.

The program’s cornerstone will be a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project, where an upstate farmer brings fresh produce every week to program members at a low cost – roughly $11 per person each week. The ability to get fresh, quality food sold Altagracia deVilla, 44, a home health aide and single mother of three, on the CSA. Continue reading “Farmer Delivers to the Bronx: High Health, Low Fat and Cost”