From Our 2011 Archives
CDC: Kids Lack Access to Healthy Food Choices
Study Shows Stores That Sell Healthy Food Aren't Accessible to Families
By Jennifer Warner
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD
April 26, 2011 -- Limited access to healthy foods in most U.S. states may be making it more difficult to instill healthy eating habits in children and may be fueling the childhood obesity epidemic.
A new CDC report shows 32 states and the District of Columbia scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index, an indicator of access to retailers that sell healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables.
Based on a range from zero (no food retailers that typically sell healthy food) to 100 (only food retailers that sell healthy food), the national average score was 10. The highest-scoring states were Montana and Maine, with scores of 16 and 15, respectively. Rhode Island and the District of Columbia ranked at the bottom of the index with scores of 5 and 4, respectively.
"To feed their children healthy food at home, parents must have ready access to stores that sell affordable, healthy food," says William Dietz, MD, PhD, director of CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, in a news release.
Availability of Healthy Food: State-by-State Scores
The scores for all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the Modified Retail Food Environment Index are:
Food Environment Unhealthy for Many
The index is a key component of the CDC's 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report. Researchers say lack of access to supermarkets and other venues where healthy foods are available for sale have been associated with a lower quality diet and increased risk of obesity.
In addition, some studies suggest that greater access to convenience stores and fast-food restaurants where healthy choices may not be readily available or may cost more is linked to a greater risk of obesity.
"Childhood obesity has tripled over the past 30 years," says CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, in the release. "This report underscores the need to make healthier choices easier for kids and more accessible and affordable for parents."
The report also includes information on how U.S. states fare in meeting a variety of environmental, behavioral, and policy goals designed to combat childhood obesity and foster healthy eating habits among children.
For example, the report shows:
SOURCES: CDC: "Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report, 2011."News release, CDC.