Higher costs and limited supermarket access are cited as barriers to health.
By Tracie McMillan (Published Sept. 1, 2014)
The diets of low-income Americans have worsened in the past decade, even as the diets of the wealthiest Americans have improved, according to a new study that is among the first to measure changes in diet quality over time by socioeconomic status. Overall diet quality in the United States remains poor, said the lead author of the study, published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.
Although the study found that the diet of all Americans improved on average between 2005 and 2010, the progress masked a decline in diet quality among the poor. The result: a doubling of the gap in diet quality between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest.
The study attributed the change to the higher cost of convenient and healthy meals, as well as limited access to quality supermarkets in some poorer neighborhoods.
Frank Hu, a study author and co-director of the Program in Obesity Epidemiology and Prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health, cautioned against taking the improvements as a sign that Americans eat well. “This is really almost like an American diet report card,” Hu said. “This has the good news that there has been some improvement in overall diet quality, but the report card still doesn’t look very good.”
The report comes at a time when the food choices of low-income households are in the national spotlight. Legislators and advocates have suggested restricting what foods can be bought with the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps) in an effort to promote health. First Lady Michelle Obama has made healthy diets a central part of her campaign to end childhood obesity. Today two-thirds of Americans of all classes are overweight or obese, with higher rates among the poor.
(From National Geographic)