'Food Deserts' May Not Be Biggest Factor in Nutrition Discrepancies

According to one recent study, regional culture plays a major part in how healthily people eat. Supply may be less of a factor than demand.
February 19, 2018, 1pm PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Ben Chrisinger

Urbanist debates around healthy eating often focus on food deserts: places where healthy options aren't readily available. But according to this study, regional tastes and cultural preference may play a larger role. 

As Caitlin Dewey puts it, "For years, advocates have argued that it's largely a problem of access: Consumers eat junk because they can't afford healthful foods or can't find them in their communities. Now, an emerging body of research suggests that some groups of consumers may simply be less interested than others in buying healthful groceries."

Lead author Hunt Allcott "hypothesizes that a region's dominant cuisine, be that barbecue or avocado toast, informs the meals that people eat as children. That, in turn, has a large effect on their lifelong food preferences."

The study calls out Montana's Musselshell County for its particularly unhealthful food purchases. Apparently, readers from Musselshell fired back, noting that "residents often supplement their diets with items from hunting trips and home gardens, meaning that they may be eating more healthfully than measurable data indicates."

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Published on Tuesday, February 6, 2018 in The Washington Post
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