offers poor choice
for more healthful, lower cost food
who want to adopt healthy lifestyles often are at a disadvantage if they
live in rural areas where stores offering nutritious foods at a lower
cost are few and far between.
A study by the University of South Carolina's Arnold School of Public
Health examined the "nutritional environment" of a rural county to
determine the number and types of food stores, the availability of
stores and the price of a specific list of staple foods representing the
main food groups.
Researchers selected Orangeburg County in South
Carolina for the study. The rural county, which covers 1,106 square
miles, has a population of more than 91,500 people, of whom 63 percent
"Stores offering more healthful and lower-cost food
selections were greatly outnumbered by convenience stores, which offered
fewer healthy foods," said Dr. Angela Liese, an associate professor at
the Arnold School and the study's lead author.
"Very little is known about the nutritional
environment of rural areas, but 20 percent of Americans live in rural
areas," she said. "Our findings underscore the challenges that rural
residents encounter when they want to adopt healthier lifestyles."
The study is one of the first in the nation to look at
store choices in rural areas. The results are published in the November
issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Of the 77 stores located in Orangeburg County at the
time of the 2004 study, only 16 percent were supermarkets, and 10
percent were grocery stores. The remaining 74 percent of the stores were
Supermarkets were defined as stores with more than $2
million in sales annually and usually belonged to large chains; grocery
stores were defined as stores having less than $2 million in annual
sales and were generally smaller than supermarkets.
The county had seven stores per 100 square miles and
eight stores per 10,000 residents. Healthy foods were abundant in the
supermarkets and grocery stores if available, were more expensive at the
Among the findings:
- Only 4 percent of convenience stores carried
- Only 28 percent of any of the stores sold any of
the fruits or vegetables listed on the survey - apples, cucumbers,
oranges and tomatoes.
- Only 2 percent of convenience stores carried
low-fat or skim milk;
- Eggs were available in 29 percent of convenience
stores, and none of these stores carried ground beef (lean or high
fat), chicken drumsticks or chicken breasts;
- 98 percent of convenience stores had off-street
parking and only 36 percent offered handicap parking;
- Food stamps were accepted by all the
supermarkets, 63 percent of the grocery stores and 2 percent of the
The Arnold School study follows a report that the Los
Angeles City Council, concerned about the possible link between obesity
and fast-food restaurants, was considering a moratorium on the building
of new restaurants in south Los Angeles while city planners looked at
ways of attracting businesses with a greater variety of food choices.
"We clearly are seeing a move in this country to
better understand how availability and costs of certain foods affect
people's choices," Liese said. "Knowing the nutritional environment of a
community may be important in how we help the people living there make
better choices for their health."
Although the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are
intended for all U.S residents, Liese said that people living in rural
areas are at a marked disadvantage in being able to meet these