2.8 Million Residents Lack Adequate Access to Healthy Food, Endure Economic Burden

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MPHA recently released new data which reveals that lack of available grocery stores impacts 2.8 million residents in Massachusetts, including more than 700,000 children and 523,000 seniors. This lack of grocery access has the greatest effect in small rural towns and Massachusetts Gateway Cities, including Chelsea, Springfield, and Taunton, the three cities with the highest percentage of residents lacking grocery access in the Commonwealth. Limited access to grocery stores is a pressing public health issue as lack of access to healthy foods has been linked to increased risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Based on a new analysis by The Food Trust, the newly released information reinforces the clear benefits of the Massachusetts Food Trust Program, an initiative that provides public seed funds to spur private investment in development of new grocery stores and other local food enterprises in high need areas. Currently, most of the communities without access to a grocery store are meeting food needs via convenience stores or other markets with limited access to fresh produce, meats or other healthy food choices.
The newly released maps take into account grocery store sales and income level in the Commonwealth. The red areas of the maps represent an overlay of low grocery store sales and lower than average income. Grocery sales are lower in these areas because there are few or no grocery stores there. Since income is also lower in these areas, people living in these communities are less able to afford to travel to the areas where stores are concentrated.
Grocery stores are not the answer for all Massachusetts communities, which is why the Massachusetts Food Trust Program will support a range of new and expanded healthy food retailers and local food enterprises that meet specific community needs.
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