UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions Study:

“To encourage healthy eating in the US, focus on mobile produce and farmers markets”

According to new research from the University at Buffalo, smaller players in the produce trade -such as mobile and farmers markets- are the cream of the crop when it comes to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in low-income communities. Opening new supermarkets, however, has not been shown to have much of an impact in that regard.

That conclusion is one of the takeaways of a literature review of studies conducted on new mobile produce markets, farmers markets and grocery stores, and how each affected a key outcome: increasing produce consumption in under-resourced neighborhoods.

The results point to the need for expanding mobile and farmers markets in order to improve the diets of people who live in low-income communities, says lead author Kelseanna Hollis-Hansen, a PhD candidate in community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions. The study was published this month in a special issue of the journal Translational Behavioral Medicine, which focused on food access among low-income populations.

Hollis-Hansen: “The review informs us that if the goal is to improve fruit and vegetable intake specifically, investing in smaller community-based retailers such as mobile produce markets and farmers markets is more effective.”

The finding that new grocery stores didn’t positively affect eating behaviors was particularly surprising to the research team. “In hindsight, it makes sense because there are thousands of items available in the grocery store that compete with fruit and vegetable purchases,” Hollis-Hansen said.

For this study, researchers reviewed the literature looking at studies that examined the impact of new food retail operations on fruit and vegetable consumption in lower income communities. The initial review returned more than 1,400 studies, of which 15 met the selection criteria.

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