Food Access & Affordability

Read the full report:

A Half Empty Plate: Fruit and Vegetable Affordability and Access Challenges in America (pdf)

Numerous studies examining neighborhood disparities demonstrate that the lack of access to healthy and affordable food has serious consequences for health and well-being. While many surveys of food access in recent years have focused on area-based measures, studies of households’ reports of their own experiences and struggles to afford and to access healthier foods, especially at the national level, have been far less common.

FRAC’s accessibility and affordability analysis gives a unique and current view of the extent to which households – in different places, among different income and racial and ethnic groups, with varying health status, and over time – are experiencing and reporting fruit and vegetable affordability and access challenges.

FRAC is examining answers to the following question: “In the city or area where you live, is it easy or not easy to get affordable fresh fruits and vegetables?” FRAC categorizes “not easy” answers as evidence of the household facing an affordability and accessibility challenge. Data is available for the nation, every state, regions, 100 of the country’s largest MSAs, and every congressional district.

Providing a unique portrait of the individuals’ experience, not just geographic measures, FRAC is revealing how the struggle by households to obtain affordable healthy food presents itself by race, income, health status, and in different parts of the country.

Among the biggest differences observed were those between income groups, and for those who experienced food hardship (an inability to afford enough food).

  • Those with annual household income less than $24,000 reported problems accessing affordable fresh fruits and vegetables 2.5 times as frequently than those with incomes between $60,000 and $89,999 (13.8 percent vs. 5.7 percent).
  • Among those in households with food hardship, 18.5 percent reported affordability and accessibility problems, while only 5.7 percent of those in households without food hardship reported such challenges.
  • The largest disparity came when measured against self-reported health status. Among people reporting poor health status, the prevalence of fruit and vegetable affordability and access challenges was four times that of people reporting excellent health status (20.0 percent vs. 5.0 percent).
  • Among all households across the years 2008-2010, 8.2 percent of respondents reported that it was “not easy to get affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.”
  • 133 congressional districts had at least one in ten households with children reporting difficulty accessing affordable fresh fruits and vegetables.

About the data

The affordability and accessibility question is being asked as part of a survey conducted by Gallup through the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index project, and provided to FRAC to be analyzed. Gallup is interviewing 1,000 households per day almost every day since January 2, 2008 for this project. More than one million people have been asked a series of questions on a range of topics including emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior, work environment and access to basic services.