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Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.)

Increases in obesity and diet-related diseases are major public health problems. These problems may be worse in some U.S. communities because access to affordable and nutritious foods is diffi cult. Previous studies suggest that some areas and households have easier access to fast food restaurants and convenience stores but limited access to supermarkets. Limited access to nutritious food and relatively easier access to less nutritious food may be linked to poor diets and, ultimately, to obesity and diet-related diseases. Congress, in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, directed the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to conduct a 1-year study to assess the extent of the problem of limited access, identify characteristics and causes, consider the effects of limited access on local populations, and outline recommendations to address the problem. This report presents the fi ndings of the study, which include results from two conferences of national and international authorities on food deserts and a set of commissioned research studies done in cooperation with the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan. It also includes reviews of existing literature, a national-level assessment of access to supermarkets and large grocery stores, analysis of the economic and public health effects of limited access, and a discussion of existing policy interventions. A variety of analytical methods and data are used to assess the extent of limited access to affordable and nutritious food and characteristics of areas with limited access.