chapter  1
26 Pages

Introduction

WithKimberly B. Morland

The fundamental purpose of this book is to engage readers to appreciate the empirical evidence demonstrating disparities in access to healthy affordable foods across the United States, and that these disparities may explain food consumption patterns for some Americans as well as potential risk for diet-related illness. Furthermore, the book describes the current body of research that has investigated these associations and presents the methodological issues pertinent to this area of public health specifically. Evidence from these studies is put into the context of current and historical American food policies that have supported the existing food retail market, including the production and retailing of foods within the United States and the ways in which the consolidation of the U.S. food system has affected Americans. Although the focus of this book pertains to local food environments within the United States, similar issues regarding access to food are concurrently taking place outside the United States. For instance, research on this subject has been conducted in Europe, Australia, and Canada. Therefore, research conducted regarding local food environments in Canada has been included as a point of comparison. In Chapters 4 through 8, methods and the current state of knowledge regarding the factors associated with disparities between local food environments, the effect of these disparities on the diets of residents within those communities, and finally the impact local food environments have on diet-related health outcomes, such as obesity, are discussed. In the final chapters, we describe solutions garnered to minimize local food environment inequalities that are currently being conducted by federal, state, and local government agencies in the United States to reduce imbalances between local food environments. Within all chapters, readers are encouraged to critically consider the current research methods as well as recent programs and policies that aim to address local food environments. This is an emerging area of public health that requires a range of multidisciplinary experts from fields such as nutrition, business, city planning, policy, epidemiology, health behavior, and geography to conceive, implement, and evaluate environmental changes that will promote health for all Americans.