Distance to Supermarket in Food Deserts May Not Make a Difference - New AAEA Member Research

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Once frequently blamed for obesity in areas far from grocery stores, new study shows it's much more about choice than distance.

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"Just because you live near a supermarket doesn't mean you'll eat more fruits and vegetables."

For years the theory on why people living in food deserts suffer from obesity has been how far they live from supermarkets offering healthy food options.

Now a new study shows distance may not make any difference.

In his paper, “Food Desert and Weight Outcome: Disentangling Confounding Mechanisms,” Di Zeng of the University of Arkansas finds the choices people make could be much more of a factor than the food options in their neighborhood.

“If you are living close to a supermarket and you like junk food you can actually be heavier,” Zeng says. “Just because you live near a supermarket doesn’t mean you’ll eat more fruits and vegetables just like if you live near a convenient store you’ll eat more junk food.”

Zeng says choice is just one of the keys in this study that has a message for policy makers. Zeng will present this research at an AAEA session of the 2016 Allied Social Sciences Association Annual Meeting (ASSA) in San Francisco, California, January 3-5.

The session will be held Monday, January 4, at 8:00 a.m. (PST) at the San Francisco Marriott Marquis (Room Sierra C).

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