Supermarket Access

Supermarket Access

What does this indicator measure?

This indicator measures the percentage of people in urban areas who live less than a half mile from a supermarket/large grocery store, or less than 10 miles in rural areas.

The connection to health

Everyone should have access to healthy food options in their community. Having access to a nearby supermarket can encourage a healthier diet and eating behaviors, lower the costs of obtaining food, reduce chronic diseases, and lower the risk of food insecurity. Hundreds of studies have documented that people who live close to a supermarket have healthier diets and better health outcomes.359 Living near a supermarket provides greater food security and convenience, especially for households with busy schedules who may not have time to shop for groceries more than once a week. For those without access to a car, being able to walk, bike or take public transportation to a supermarket can impact their health. When supermarkets are far away, people have reduced access and may have to travel long distances to obtain food or make use of closer options which may be limited to fast-food retailers and convenience stores, often offering less nutritional meals and food. Studies have shown that adults without a nearby supermarket are 25 to 46 percent less likely to have a healthy diet than those with one near their homes.360 This is especially true for low-income and communities of color, who are more likely to live in neighborhoods without a supermarket. For instance, African Americans are 32% more likely to meet dietary guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption if they live near a supermarket.361 The presence of a supermarket and other healthy food options in one’s neighborhood is a community condition that impacts health. Improving supermarket access can be a key strategy in creating healthier places.

Where to start?

Improving supermarket access requires a range of strategies to assess the existing healthy food environment, determine the market feasibility for new supermarkets and other healthy food options, plan for equitable access, and plan for a healthier neighborhood. Communities should first seek to Increase Healthy Food Options. A good place to start is by reviewing the Healthy Food Access Portal’s recommendations for financing new healthy food options, including supermarkets but also smaller-scale providers like farmers markets and community supported agriculture (CSAs). Local governments should also Plan Communities to Support Healthy Food Access, incorporating healthy food access into the General Plan, site plans, smart growth efforts and other land use and transportation planning efforts. They should also ensure that transportation options are available to existing and future healthy food outlets, including public transportation for those without cars. Communities should also Develop Community Economic Capacity for small businesses, job training providers, and other employment and workforce services that can support a healthy food system within the community. Jurisdictions are encouraged to explore the use of community land trusts and other land preservation strategies to ensure that each neighborhood’s mix of destinations is culturally and economically appropriate to current residents.

Improving supermarket access is not as simple as building a new grocery store. It requires planning and a community-involved process to identify where there are gaps in healthy food access and assessing the types of options available. Financing is usually a barrier to these efforts, but grants are available from the federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative, State FreshWorks Fund and other funding sources. The Healthy Food Access Portal’s List of California Healthy Food Financing Examples also provides local examples of communities in California that have been successful in improving supermarket access and building healthier communities.