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Prev Med. 2010 Jul;51(1):63-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2010.04.009. Epub 2010 Apr 18.

Disparities in food access: does aggregate availability of key foods from other stores offset the relative lack of supermarkets in African-American neighborhoods?

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  • 1Department of Community Health Sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, New Orleans, Louisiana 70112, USA.



Recent work demonstrates the importance of in-store contents, yet most food access disparity research has focused on differences in store access, rather than the foods they carry. This study examined in-store shelf space of key foods to test whether other types of stores might offset the relative lack of supermarkets in African-American neighborhoods.


New Orleans census tract data were combined with health department information on food stores open in 2004-2005. Shelf space of fruits, vegetables, and energy-dense snacks was assessed using a measuring wheel and established protocols in a sample of stores. Neighborhood availability of foods was calculated by summing shelf space in all stores within 2km of tract centers. Regression analyses assessed associations between tract racial composition and aggregate food availability.


African-American neighborhoods had fewer supermarkets and the aggregate availability of fresh fruits and vegetables was lower than in other neighborhoods. There were no differences in snack food availability.


Other store types did not offset the relative lack of supermarkets in African-American neighborhoods in the provision of fresh produce, though they did for snack foods. Altering the mix of foods offered in such stores might mitigate these inequities.

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