NEW YORK — An article in the New York Times Wednesday citing two studies that question the linkage between food deserts and obesity drew a critical response from the United Way of New York City.
The studies, from the RAND Corp, and the Public Policy Institute of California, assert that there is no relationship between the type of food being sold in a neighborhood and obesity among its children and adolescents, the Times article reported. The RAND study was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, while the Public Policy Institute of California’s study appeared in the March issue of Social Science and Medicine.
“One need only try to find an abundance of affordable fresh produce in any of New York City’s impoverished neighborhoods to realize food deserts are widespread in our city," said Gordon Campbell, president, United Way of New York City. “Two in five New Yorkers have limited or no options for affordable, nutritious and healthy food and one in two households making $25,000 or less have limited or no options for affordable, nutritious and healthy food.”
Recent data released by the RAND Corporation and Public Policy Institute of California ”does not paint the full picture,” Campbell added. “The studies report that fresh produce is often available 1.5 or 2 miles away. However, in an urban setting, traveling that distance is not easy, especially when resources are tight. Moreover, often there is an overabundance of unhealthy food, which is in direct competition to what healthy food exists.” Efforts such New York City’s FRESH Initiative, Green Carts and Adopt-a-Bodega “are the right direction to build on and go a long way toward improving the health of needy New Yorkers,” he said.
The New York Healthy Food & Healthy Communities Fund, a three-year, public/private program launched in late 2010, has thus far provided $6.14 million — $4.86 million in loans and $1.28 million in grants — to seven supermarket projects aimed at improving access to nutritious food for 24,000 people in underserved communities in New York state, according to the Low Income Investment Fund.