Healthfulness of grocery store food purchases differs across geographic markets

A chart showing the food purchase healthfulness for selected geographic markets, years 1998 to 2006.

Dietary quality can vary across households throughout the United States. This is likely the result of a combination of both supply and demand factors. On the supply side, the geography of the food environment, as defined by the number and type of food retailers, can vary across markets. On the demand side, there are differences in local and regional food preferences. Researchers at ERS scored the nutritional quality of grocery store purchases of American households in 56 geographic markets using an approach similar to USDA’s Healthy Eating Index (HEI). Under the HEI, scores range from 0 to 100, with 100 indicating perfect adherence to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Average scores for the markets ranged from 52 in New Orleans, LA to 62 for Syracuse, NY. The average U.S. score was 56, indicating that the grocery store choices of Americans across the Nation fall short of fully adhering to Federal recommendations. This chart appears in the ERS report, Assessing the Healthfulness of Consumers’ Grocery Purchases, EIB-102, November 2012. See also the blog post in USDA’s Science Tuesday series.

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