By Nanci Hellmich, USA TODAY
USAToday, August 4, 2003
A new study confirms what obesity researchers have said for years: Grocery stores in lower-income black neighborhoods offer fewer healthful foods than stores in more affluent, mostly white communities, making it more difficult for poorer people to maintain a normal weight and live a healthy lifestyle.
This may partly explain why some groups such as black women have higher rates of obesity.
For the latest study, trained community volunteers and academic researchers in the Los Angeles area studied 261 stores in specific areas of South Los Angeles, Inglewood and North Long Beach, whose populations are 47% black, with a median household income of $29,237.
They compared foods found in those stores with products in 69 stores in areas in West Los Angeles (between Santa Monica and Beverly Hills, but not including those communities) that are mostly white and have a median income of $45,917. They then looked more closely at 71 stores in the white and black communities to flesh out their study.
A statistical comparison was done by researchers with local health advocacy group Community Health Councils Inc., the University of Southern California and the University of California-Los Angeles. Among their findings, reported in the July issue of Journal of General Internal Medicine:
Community members reported "finding unappealing vegetables and fruits such as brown bananas" in the lower-income neighborhoods, says lead author David Sloane, an associate professor of policy, planning and development at USC.
There were marked differences in the types of stores in the communities.
"In West Los Angeles, they tend to be larger chain stores," Sloane says. "In South Los Angeles, they tend to be more mom-and-pop stores. ... They don't have a strong a relationship with distributors to get as great a variety of goods, and so the result is people have a fewer choices of healthy items."