Food deserts are common in Arkansas, ACHI report says

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – In more than one in four census tracts in Arkansas, 50% or more of the local population had poor access to healthy food sources in 2019, according to a health improvement center of Arkansas (ACHI) analysis of US Department of Agriculture data.

“With the White House just holding its second Hunger, Nutrition and Health Conference, now is a good time to draw attention to the food desert crisis in Arkansas,” the president said Thursday. -Chief Executive Officer of ACHI, Dr. Joe Thompson.

“There are communities across the state where people looking for healthy groceries don’t have options,” he said. “In these neighborhoods, the only local food sources may be gas stations or fast food restaurants. People experiencing poverty are particularly likely to be affected by the lack of healthy food in their communities, and soaring food and fuel prices over the past year have exacerbated the challenges these people face. are confronted.

ACHI’s findings include the following:

  • In 26% of Arkansas census tracts for which data is available (136 of 526), ​​at least 50% of the population had low access to healthy food sources in 2019. For the purposes of its analysis, the ACHI ranked residents of Arkansas as having low access to healthy foods. sources of healthy foods if they lived more than a mile from the nearest large grocery store in an urban area or more than 10 miles from the nearest large grocery store in a rural area.
  • In 2019, at least 358 of Arkansas’ 686 census tracts were low-access, defined as an area in which at least 500 people or 33% of the population lived more than a mile from the nearest major grocery store in an urban area. or more than 10 miles from the nearest large grocery store in a rural area.
  • In 2019, at least 171 of Arkansas’s 686 census tracts were both low-access and low-income, meaning they met the definition of low-access above and had a poverty rate of 20% or more or a median family income. less than 80% of Arkansas or local metro area median family income (if applicable).
  • There were just 1.7 grocery or fresh produce vendors per 10,000 people in Arkansas in 2019, below the national average of 2.1 per 10,000.

More ACHI research on food deserts is available here.

Because the most accessible food options in food deserts are generally not healthy options, food deserts have been associated with high rates of obesity. Last week, Trust for America’s Health released its annual “State of Obesity” report, which finds that Arkansas’ adult obesity rate is 38.7%, the sixth worst rate in the nation.

A discussion of this report is available on the ACHI blog here.

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