Policy Factsheet

Supermarket Access in Low-income Communities

Reasons for Policy

  • Prevalence of overweight among children and adolescents in the United States has almost tripled since 1980. 1
  • Significant disparities exist among socioeconomically disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minority populations.2
  • Neighborhood built environments (including the retail food environment) are believed to influence eating behaviors and potentially contribute to the observed health disparities.3

Policy Components

  • Increase access to supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods

Desired Outcomes

  • Decreased obesity rates in socioeconomically disadvantaged and racial/ethnic minority populations
  • Increased accessibility to healthy foods

Level of Evidence Available to Evaluate Effectiveness of Policy

For all policies we describe on this website, we have applied the Standards of Evidence as defined by Flay et al. (2005) in the Standards of Evidence document published by Prevention Science.

The effectiveness level of this policy is 3: Insufficient Evidence Available.

The levels of effectiveness as noted are:

  1. meets criteria for policy effectiveness (consistent, positive outcomes from at least two high-quality experimental or quasi-experimental trials using a comparison group or interrupted time series design);
  2. consistent evidence available linking policy with positive outcomes from high-quality observational studies only;
  3. insufficient evidence available for policy or policy components.

Achievable Results

  • Neighborhood residents who have better access to supermarkets and limited access to convenience stores may have healthier diets and lower levels of obesity.5,6,7
  • More, scientifically rigorous, research is needed.


1 Flegal K. Epidemiological aspects of overweight and obesity in the United States. Physiology & Behavior, 86, 599-602.

2 Crawford, PB, Wang, M, Krathwohl, S, & Ritchie, LD (2006). Disparities in obesity: Prevalence, causes, and solutions. Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, 1, 27-48.

3 Glanz, K, Sallis, J, Saelens, BE, & Frank, LD (2005). Healthy nutrition environments: Concepts and measures. American Journal of Health Promotion, 19, 330-333.

4 Flay, BR, Biglan, A, Boruch, RF, Ganzalez Castro, F, Gottfredson, D, Kellam, S, Moscicki, EK, Schinke, S, Valentine, JC, & Ji, P (2005). Standards of evidence: Criteria for efficacy, effectiveness and dissemination. Prevention Science, 6(3), 151-175.

5 Ford, PB & Dzewaltowski, DA (2008). Disparities in obesity prevalence due to variation in the retail food environment: Three testable hypotheses. Nutrition Reviews, 66(4), 216-228.

6 Larson, NI, Story, MT, & Nelson, MC (2009). Neighborhood environments: Disparities in access to healthy foods in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 36(1), 74-81.