The Chicago 2011 Food Desert Drilldown, 5th Anniversary Edition – October 2011
Food & Health In Washington DC

Response to “Studies Question Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity” – New York Times, April 18, 2012, pp. A1 and A3

The April 18th Times article on recent studies examining the link between “food deserts” and childhood obesity leaves the impression that food access does not matter in combating this epidemic. Our firm popularized the term “food desert” in the U.S. with the release of Examining the Impact of Food Deserts on Public Health in Chicago (2006). We found strong relationships between the inaccessibility of nutritious food options and two crucial negative health outcomes: higher body mass index — a proxy for obesity — and an increased incidence of premature death by diabetes. We found similar results in other cities, as have many other researchers. The article gave an unbalanced portrait of the evidence to date, even failing to note the limitations noted by the authors of the studies described. Our issue is not with the two new studies; we thank the authors for their valuable contributions. Our issue is the reporter’s sloppy job of getting the facts straight. Some of this could have been settled by some simple Google searches. She muddied the water at best, misled at worst, and left the inaccurate impression that food access and the concept of food deserts does not matter. Does plopping down a grocery store instantly solve the obesity problem? No, but it’s a step in the right direction. Download the full PDF to get all the details.