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Study Shows Stores That Sell Healthy Food Aren’t Accessible to Families

April 26, 2011 -- Limited access to healthy foods in most U.S. states may be making it more difficult to instill healthy eating habits in children and may be fueling the childhood obesity epidemic.

A new CDC report shows 32 states and the District of Columbia scored at or below the national average for the Modified Retail Food Environment Index, an indicator of access to retailers that sell healthy foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Based on a range from zero (no food retailers that typically sell healthy food) to 100 (only food retailers that sell healthy food), the national average score was 10. The highest-scoring states were Montana and Maine, with scores of 16 and 15, respectively. Rhode Island and the District of Columbia ranked at the bottom of the index with scores of 5 and 4, respectively.

“To feed their children healthy food at home, parents must have ready access to stores that sell affordable, healthy food,” says William Dietz, MD, PhD, director of CDC's division of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity, in a news release.

Availability of Healthy Food: State-by-State Scores

The scores for all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the Modified Retail Food Environment Index are:

Modified Retail Food Environment Index Score

U.S. National Average

10

Alabama

10

Alaska

6

Arizona

12

Arkansas

9

California

11

Colorado

11

Connecticut

6

Delaware

12

D.C.

4

Florida

10

Georgia

8

Hawaii

14

Idaho

13

Illinois

8

Indiana

10

Iowa

10

Kansas

10

Kentucky

10

Louisiana

9

Maine

15

Maryland

10

Massachusetts

7

Michigan

10

Minnesota

10

Mississippi

8

Missouri

10

Montana

16

Nebraska

10

Nevada

11

New Hampshire

9

New Jersey

8

New Mexico

12

New York

8

North Carolina

11

North Dakota

8

Ohio

9

Oklahoma

6

Oregon

13

Pennsylvania

11

Rhode Island

5

South Carolina

9

South Dakota

8

Tennessee

10

Texas

7

Utah

13

Vermont

13

Virginia

11

Washington

12

West Virginia

13

Wisconsin

11

Wyoming

10

Food Environment Unhealthy for Many

The index is a key component of the CDC's 2011 Children's Food Environment State Indicator Report. Researchers say lack of access to supermarkets and other venues where healthy foods are available for sale have been associated with a lower quality diet and increased risk of obesity.

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