American Heart Association
By By Michael Precker, American Heart Association News
March 25, 2021
That combination all too often occurs in low-income and under-resourced neighborhoods, said Kristen Cooksey Stowers, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in health equity and food-related public policy.
“It’s not that fast food or corner stores are inherently bad,” she said. “But when it becomes the majority of what a neighborhood can rely on, that’s a problem. We see areas inundated with unhealthy food.”
Cooksey Stowers’ research has shown a correlation between food swamps and obesity, and she led a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showing food swamps were a better predictor of obesity than food deserts.
Kris-Etherton was chief author of an article last year in the Journal of the American Heart Association linking food swamps and food deserts to poor diet quality, obesity and cardiovascular disease, all of which can be more prevalent among low-income people, many of whom are Black and Hispanic and other people of color. The authors called for policy changes to address the disparities.
In the long term, Cooksey Stowers said, solutions include better zoning to limit clusters of fast-food outlets, incentives to build grocery stores and farmers markets in disadvantaged areas, and even requiring convenience stores to stock a certain percentage of healthy food.
“People need to realize they are empowered to be part of the change in their communities,” she said.
In the meantime, if you’re hungry, keep this in mind:
Carry a healthy snack. An apple, carrot sticks or some nuts in the car might keep you from overdoing it at the drive-thru. “Take something with you so you don’t get really hungry,” Kris-Etherton said. “When you’re really hungry, you eat more.”