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Healthy Food Environment

Good nutrition is vital to good health, disease prevention, and essential for healthy growth and development of children and adolescents. Evidence suggests that a diet of nutritious foods and a routine of increased physical activity could help reduce the incidence of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes—the leading causes of death and disability in the United States.

Just hearing about the benefits of a balanced diet persuades some people to change their eating habits and lifestyles. For others, eating a healthy diet may be more difficult because healthy food options are not readily available, easily accessible, or affordable in their communities. In fact, scientific studies have found that low-income and underserved communities often have limited access to stores that sell healthy food, especially high-quality fruits and vegetables. And rural communities often have a higher number of convenience stores, where healthy foods are less available than in larger, retail food markets.

Planning for improvement in overall community health should include access to affordable and healthy food. Planners, local government officials, food retailers, and food policy councils are among those who can help ensure a healthy food environment in their community.

For more information, please refer to the following resources:

General Food Environment Resources

Health Effects of Limited Access to Healthy Food: Obesity, Chronic Disease, and Poor Nutrition

Strategies for Creating and Maintaining a Healthy Food Environment:

Tools for Assessing Areas with Limited Healthy and Fresh Food Access and Examining Community Food Systems:

References Used To Develop This Page:

Story M, Kaphingst KM, Robinson-O'Brien R, Glanz K. Creating healthy food and eating environments: policy and environmental approaches. Annual Review of Public Health, April 2008;29:253–72.

Powell L. Food store availability and neighborhood characteristics in the United States. Preventive Medicine 2007;44:189–195.

Liese AD, Weis KE, Pluto D, Smith E, Lawson A. Food store types, availability and cost of foods in a rural environment. J Am Dietetic Assoc 2007;107(11):1916–23.

Zenk SN, Schulz AJ, Israel BA, James SA, Bao SM, Wilson ML. Fruit and vegetable access differs by community racial composition and socioeconomic position in Detroit, Michigan. Ethn Dis 2006;16(1):275–80.

Glanz, et al. Healthy nutrition environments: concepts and measures. Am J Health Promotion. 2005;19(5):330–3, ii.

Horowitz CR, Colson KA, Hebert PL, Lancaster K. Barriers to buying healthy foods for people with diabetes: evidence of environmental disparities. Am J Pub Health. 2004;94:1549–54.

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