Inequalities in Access to Healthy Foods

by Madhuhaas Gottimukkala
3 mins read

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty, a greater number of fast food restaurants, little to no access to healthy foods, and with grocery stores more than 1 mile away qualify as food deserts. In these areas, it is more common to find fast food restaurants and small, local stores instead of grocery stores. People in a neighborhood most likely consume food based on the choices available in their neighborhood. Other factors such as income and access to transportation to grocery stores also play a role in food consumed. Access to nutritious food becomes a major problem in low-income neighborhoods and food deserts where there are more fast-food restaurants compared to higher income neighborhoods. People are left with no choice but to eat what they have access to. While many argue that obesity is a result of poor choices made by an individual, there are factors that may be out of an individual’s control such as access to food, income, and location that influence the food choices. Low-income communities tend to lack supermarkets and do not provide adequate safety for exercise, causing residents to live unhealthy lifestyles that put them at greater risk for obesity.

In the article “Fast Food: Oppression through Poor Nutrition,” Freeman discusses the growth of fast food in urban neighborhoods and the relocation of supermarkets. He notes that “This migration, combined with the lack of transportation to the suburbs and the higher prices charged by local convenience stores, has made fast food the dominant food source in many low-income, urban communities.” This leads to negative impacts on one’s diet and health. Eating too much fast food is linked with numerous health issues, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Freeman claims, “There are higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and cancer in poor neighborhoods than any other area.” (Freeman page 2228). The lack of options caused by food deserts in low-income neighborhoods are producing unequal and unfair side effects in these communities. “Neighborhood Disparities in Access to Healthy Foods and Their Effects on Environmental Justice” by Angela Hilmers also describes the dense caloric intake of these foods. She states, “In general, fast-food outlets and convenience stores offer high-calorie foods, leading to higher total caloric intakes for their customers.” (Hilmers, 2012). The disproportionate access to unhealthy foods in low-income communities is linked to adverse side effects such as high obesity rates.


Dutko, Paula, et al. “Characteristics and Influential Factors of Food Deserts.” USDA ERS, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 31 Aug. 2012, 

Freeman, Andrea. “Fast Food: Oppression through Poor Nutrition.” California Law Review, vol. 95, no. 6, 2007, pp. 2221–2259. JSTOR, Accessed 16 Mar. 2021.

Hilmers, Angela et al. “Neighborhood disparities in access to healthy foods and their effects on environmental justice.” American journal of public health vol. 102,9 (2012): 1644-54. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2012.300865

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