The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service is out with a new study that seems to challenge the notion that “that poor access to food retailers that sell a wide range of healthy and affordable foods results in poorer diet and diet-related health problems,” and that “lack of access to stores such as supermarkets may mean that households rely more heavily on nearby retailers, such as convenience stores or fast-food restaurants, which do not typically offer a wide variety of healthful foods.”

In fact, the study finds, the gap may not be as large as some have thought.

“Seventy-seven percent of access-burdened households reported a shopping event at a supermarket, superstore, large grocery store, or warehouse store during the survey week compared to 87 percent for households with sufficient access,” the study says. “Of those who visited these large stores during the survey week, sufficient-access households had 2.8 shopping events at such a store, while access-burdened households averaged 2.4 shopping events.”

And, “although they average fewer trips, access-burdened households spend almost the same percentage of their weekly food expenditures at large stores as households with sufficient access - 57 percent of total spending for access-burdened households and 58 percent for sufficient-access households. The per capita spending of access-burdened households at such stores is slightly lower - $28.77 on average for the survey week compared with $29.97 for households.”

KC's View: Sounds like yet another argument for chains and independents to find ways to bring better stores to neighborhoods that are dramatically underserved. There are sales there to be earned by companies willing to make the investment.