High rates of obesity and diabetes have spurred research to understand the causes of these diseases and to identify prevention strategies. Many studies have found that residents in low income and minority communities have poor access to grocery stores and healthy food products (term called food deserts).
Residents that live in these “food deserts” have been found to be at higher risk of food insecurity and obesity. Food deserts are areas with no nutritious food stores, generally in low income neighborhoods. In addition, research suggests that areas with a high concentration of food stores may also be associated with poor health.
This study examined full service food stores available within Mecklenburg County census block groups (CBG) to:
- determine the existence of food deserts
- examine the relationship between food deserts and demographics
- examine the relationship between access to food stores and health characteristics
Food Deserts in Mecklenburg County
Community Food Assessment 2010 found that 72,793 residents are living in food deserts in Mecklenburg County. The assessment found that:
- the median income in a food desert was approximately $31,000
- 1/3rd of the residents in food deserts are SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously called the Food Stamp Program) participants
- the majority of food desert residents live in the northwest section of Charlotte
- As the number of non full service food stores increases, the median income decreases.
- Having more non full service stores compared to full service stores is more common in lower income areas.
- The CBG with higher proportions of Asian and Hispanic residents are likely to have more full service and non full service food stores.
- We also found that the number of food stores increases as the proportion of Black, Hispanic and Asian residents increases.
- CBG with full service food stores had a lower rate of premature death to heart disease.
- Each full service food store in a CBG is associated with 23 fewer premature deaths to heart disease per 100,000 residents.
- As the number of non full service stores increases in relation to full service food stores in a CBG there are 18 more premature deaths to heart disease per 100,000 residents.
- The availability of full service food stores and other types of food stores was not related to the premature death rate due to diabetes.
Additional findings are available in the summary report. Also available is a map of food deserts in Mecklenburg County.