Obesity and Access to Food

Yesterday I spent some time talking about the fact that many Americans live in areas that are designated as food deserts where they struggle to find access to grocery stores. Today I wanted to look into this a bit more by bringing in obesity and seeing if there truly is a relationship between living in a food desert and likelihood of being obese. Here is what I found.

I will start again with a map of the food deserts in order to provide a solid reference point.

And here is a map of obesity trends across the country.

These maps do not show a perfect overlap, but it definitely suggests a relationship between struggling to find food and being obese. This map seem counter-intuitive. Wouldn't being further from food sources indicate people would be less obese? 

No. Regardless of location everybody has to eat, but being further from grocery stores simply affects what gets eaten. When it is really challenging to purchase healthy foods, people sometimes choose the ease of shopping at closer convenience stores which are full of options that have less nutritional value. When actually making it to a grocery store, people living in food deserts may purchase items that last longer and many of these items are typically less healthy than items that go bad more quickly.

This is an unfortunate problem in the country because it is extremely complex. For decades American obesity rates have been rising, but in some areas it simply is not economically feasible to build supermarkets. This may be one of the more subtle contributing factors to the trend of urbanization in the United States; people move to cities as they become frustrated with their nutritional struggles.