The Impact of Food Deserts on Food Insufficiency and Snap Participation Among the Elderly
22 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2020
Date Written: January 2016
Residents of neighborhoods with limited access to grocery stores may face barriers to obtaining adequate food for a healthy diet. Low‐income elderly may be uniquely affected by these so‐called “food deserts” due to limited transportation options, strong attachments to local neighborhoods, fixed incomes, and physical limitations for food shopping. Using 2006 and 2010 Health and Retirement Study data linked to census tract‐level measures of food deserts, this study measures whether living in a food desert affects food and material hardship, participation in food assistance programs, and the food spending of elderly adults. In both cross‐sectional and fixed effects regressions of elderly residents of urban counties, we find little evidence that living in a food desert affects these outcomes. We find, however, that individuals residing in a food desert without a vehicle are 12 percentage points more likely to report food insufficiency. Those SNAP recipients living in food deserts are 11 percentage points more likely to receive subsidized meals, while nonparticipants in food deserts and SNAP recipients outside of food deserts are less likely to receive subsidized meals. Our findings suggest that seniors without vehicles and SNAP recipients in food deserts may be the most vulnerable to limited food store access.
Keywords: Food deserts, food environment, food sufficiency, elderly, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
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