, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 371-383
Date: 10 Oct 2006

Fruit and vegetable access in four low-income food deserts communities in Minnesota

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Abstract

Access to fruits and vegetables by low-income residents living in selected urban and rural Minnesotan communities was investigated. Communities were selected based on higher than state average poverty rates, limited access to grocery stores, and urban influence codes (USDA ERS codes). Four communities, two urban and two rural, were selected. Data were gathered from focus group discussions (n = 41), responses to a consumer survey (n = 396 in urban neighborhoods and n = 400 in rural communities), and an inventory of foodstuffs available at stores located in all the communities and at large grocery stores in neighborhoods adjacent to the urban communities. In the two urban neighborhoods, a significant number of foods (26% and 52%) were significantly more expensive than the Thrifty Food Plan’s (TFP) market basket price (MBP). Additionally, a significant number of foods in the two rural communities were more expensive (11% and 26%). In focus groups, participants identified major barriers to shopping in their community to be cost, quality of food, and food choice limitations. Results of the food inventory show that foods within the communities were costly, of fair or poor quality, and limited in number and type available, supporting complaints verbalized by focus group participants. Through focus groups and surveys, participants expressed concern that healthy food choices were not affordable within their communities and believed that people in their community suffered from food insecurity. The absence of quality, affordable food for low-income residents in these four Minnesota communities prevents or diminishes their ability to choose foods that help maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Deja Hendrickson is currently a graduate student at the University of California and working towards obtaining her MS in nutrition in order to become a registered dietitian.
Chery Smith, PhD, MPH, RD, is an associate professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota with research interests in the dietary behavior of low-income and homeless people, community and international nutrition, and food systems.
Nicole Eikenberry is a Registered Dietitian and recently completed her MS in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, with primary research emphasis on food access and food choice for low-income Minnesotan adults.