Updated 06:43 AM EST, Tue, Jan 26, 2021

Latino Neighborhoods Have Little Access to Healthy Food, Study Finds

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A new study found that Latino neighborhoods need to have more access to supermarkets, farmer markets, and local stores with healthier food selections.

The "Better Food in the Neighborhood" research done by Salud America!, a national network that advocates for childhood obesity prevention, found that Hispanic neighborhoods have one-third as many supermarkets as non-Latino ones, corner stores or "bodegas" with hardly any healthy options, and more marketing of unhealthy foods.

Studies have discovered that body weight outcomes among children and teens improved when there are plenty of chain supermarkets and when families reside closer to grocery stores with healthier food choices, NBC News wrote.

"Research clearly shows that access to, and purchases of, affordable healthy foods tends to improve when supermarkets or farmers' markets are introduced or when healthy food offerings in corner stores are expanded and marketed well in Latino communities," said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, director of Salud America! and the Institute for Health Promotion Research at San Antonio's UT Health Science Center, as reported by Latina Lista.

Ramirez continued, "The bottom line is that everyone, including Latino families, should have the opportunity to choose affordable, healthy foods that contribute to a healthy lifestyle."

The study found that while Latino youth have minimal healthy food options, they are also exposed to more advertisements promoting unhealthy alternatives, NBC News reported. 82 percent of ads targeting Hispanic youth are more likely to endorse unhealthy foods compared to 72.5 percent of ads aimed at English-speaking youth.

The report suggested to further utilize programs like the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which has given grants to communities so they can offer incentives such as tax credits, equipment, and financial and legal assistance promoting farmers' markets and supermarkets in underserved areas. Greater consumption of fruits and vegetables among immigrant communities is linked to the existence of farmers' markets, the news outlet added.

Incentives that cuts the price of healthy food or allow electronic benefit transfer (EBT) purchases at farmers' markets can raise availability and consumption of healthy food, Latina Lista reported.

At corner stores, initiatives that widen their healthy food selections increase healthy food purchases, Latina Lista added. An example of this is a New York City program which amplified the number and promotion of healthy food options at 1,000 bodegas. This led to 45% more milk sales, 32% more fruit sales, and 26% more vegetable sales. The percentage of customers who bought healthier food options increased from 5 percent to 16 percent.

In addition, the report recommends the expansion of supplemental food benefits like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) at farmers' markets to improve low-income families' healthy food intake, NBC News noted.

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