17 were classified as supermarkets, 136 as grocery stores, and 34 as convenience stores. No fresh fruits or vegetables, whole-wheat bread, or skim milk was found in the city’s grocery stores; other food items, such as whole milk, soda, chips, and canned foods, were typically available. Further, the price of whole milk, cereal, and white bread at a representative store was 20 percent higher than in the closest supermarket, 0.9 miles away. Overall, food outlets in lower-income and minority neighborhoods tend to stock lower-quality items than food outlets in predominantly higher-income, white neighborhoods.
Disparities in Access to and Availability of Public Transportation
Residents in many urban areas have few transportation options to reach supermarkets. To examine whether access to transportation plays a role in risk factors for food insecurity and access to food outlets, Bjorn and colleagues (2008) developed and mapped a number of food insecurity index values, including income, ethnicity, employment, and education. Analysis of the indices identified a number of high-risk areas lacking food access in Seattle, King County, Washington. Many of the high-risk lower-income neighborhoods assessed were racially and ethnically diverse. For some of these areas, transportation access was a major barrier to food security. Households in the areas at risk of food insecurity were more vulnerable to economic and social as well as geographic barriers that may have made them dependent on local convenience stores and/or required long trips to distant grocery stores.
Inadequate transportation can also be a major challenge for rural residents, given the long distances to stores. Sharkey and colleagues (2009) examined associations between neighborhood needs, as measured by socioeconomic deprivation and vehicle availability, and two criteria for food environment access: distance to the nearest food store and fast-food restaurant, and number of food stores and fast-food restaurants within a specified network distance of neighborhood areas. The authors analyzed data from the 2006-2007 Colonias Food Environment Project and the decennial 2000 U.S. Census Summary File 3. They found that the rural neighborhoods studied had better access to convenience stores and fast-food restaurants in terms of both distance and shopping opportunity compared with access to supermarkets. Supermarkets provided greater proximity and coverage than traditional grocery stores, but when neighborhood deprivation was taken into account, the neighborhoods with higher deprivation had the least access to supermarkets and grocery stores but the greatest access to convenience stores. When transportation access was considered, limited availability of a vehicle was correlated with greater proximity to a supermarket as well as other store types, but higher deprivation was associated with greater