NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 11, 2005

Children who live in areas where fresh produce is relatively cheap are less likely to gain excess weight than those living in areas where it is expensive, according to a new study by the Rand Corporation.

Researchers studied 6,918 children from 59 metropolitan areas and varying socio-economic backgrounds over a four-year period. According to their findings:

  • Lower real prices for fruits and vegetables were associated with lower gains in body mass index (BMI) in children from kindergarten through third grade, with half of the effect occurring from kindergarten through first grade.
  • Lower meat prices were associated with a positive, but insignificant gain in BMI for children over three years.
  • However, the number of fast food restaurants in a metro area and the price of fast food had no significant effect on BMI, possibly due to lack of data at the neighborhood level.

Furthermore, it is assumed that children in poverty tend to live in urban areas with limited access to grocery stores carrying fresh, inexpensive food. However, the researchers found that these areas had slightly more grocery stores, and that limited access was more likely found in rural and semi-rural areas.

Source: R. Sturm and A. Datar, "Body Mass Index in Elementary School Children, Metropolitan Area Food Prices and Food Outlet Density," Public Health, September 2, 2005.


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