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Grocery stores not a cure-all for "food deserts"


Opening grocery stores in poor neighbourhoods won’t necessarily make the people living there eat healthier, says a new U.S. study.

Government policymakers and researchers have long surmised that these neighbourhoods­–called food deserts, because of a lack of supermarkets nearby–are breeding grounds of obesity.

People who live there usually have to take a long bus ride to get to a store and, therefore, they tend to eat unhealthy food bought at fast-food restaurants and corner stores.

But a study done by researchers at the University of North Carolina finds that people who live close to a grocery store in cities don’t always eat more fruits and vegetables or have a better diet.

“It’s simply not enough to introduce a grocery store,” Penny Gordon-Larsen, the study’s author, told Reuters in an article.

The study started tracking the eating habits of 5,000 young adults in 1985 in four U.S. cities. Participants were surveyed about their eating habits throughout the years, and the study kept tabs on the number of fast-food restaurants and grocery stores nearby.

One interesting thing the study did uncover is that low-income men living in food deserts tend to eat more at fast-food restaurants.

When policymakers look to encourage grocery chains to open within a food desert, they might also consider restrictions on fast-food restaurants in the area, the study noted.

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