Are Food Deserts to Blame for America's Poor Eating Habits?

Are Food Deserts to Blame for America's Poor Eating Habits?

When it comes to nutrition access, the focus should be on poverty, not grocery-store location.

It’s a plausible hypothesis: Poor people in the United States suffer from measurably worse nutrition because they have such limited access to good food. Confronted with a high concentration of poor diet choices (fast food and processed food in convenience stores) and with few markets offering fresh fruit and vegetables, the poor end up eating a less healthy diet. In this view, bad diets are a problem with the urban environment—the lack of good food in poor neighborhoods.

But while there are certainly urban neighborhoods that lack good grocery options, is there any evidence that close physical access to food—as opposed to other factors like income or education—strongly determines healthy eating? That view deserves some skepticism.