Healthy Eating Strategy #3: Improve Access to Supermarkets in Underserved Areas

Our Healthier Communities Initiatives are built on the concept that local communities can work together to give all community members healthy choices and support the pursuit of healthy lifestyles.  More than 160 Ys are working in collaboration with community leaders to make changes in policies and the physical surroundings in those communities so that healthy living is within reach for individuals of all ages and backgrounds.

Healthy Eating Strategy #3: Improve Access to Supermarkets in Underserved Areas

A lack of supermarkets has been shown to contribute to unhealthy eating and poor health outcomes. Increasing access to supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods improves access to healthier foods and beverages.


A lack of supermarkets in underserved areas is believed to contribute to unhealthy eating and poor health outcomes in those communities. There is evidence that increasing access to supermarkets in low-income neighborhoods through public transit and increased supermarket development improves access to healthier foods and beverages. Supermarkets offering transportation services see an increase in revenue from fresh produce and other perishable items. The service is also effective in attracting and retaining customers. Incentives, new regulatory frameworks, involvement of nonprofit agencies and political leadership, and subsidy models have been recommended as strategies to attract planners and supermarket chains to underserved areas. The successful development of supermarkets consequently leads to the creation of jobs. The positive cycle of economic investment improves the supply of healthier foods and beverages and potentially leads to improved health of the members of the community who now have better access to healthier food sources.


  1. Mohan, V., & Cassady, D. (2002). Center for Advanced Studies in Nutrition and Social Marketing. Supermarket shuttle programs: A feasibility study of supermarkets located in low-income, transit dependent, urban neighborhoods in California. University of California, Davis.
  2. Gottlieb, R., Fisher, A., Dohan, M., et al. (1996). Community Food Security Coalition. Homeward bound: Food-related transportation strategies in low income and transit-dependent communities. UC Transportation Center.
  3. Giang, T., Karpyn, A., Laurison, H.B., Hillier, A., & Perry, R.D. (2008). Closing the gap in underserved communities: The creation of the Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. Journal of Public Health Management Practice, 14(3), 272–279.
  4. Hartford Food Systems. (2006). Connecticut's supermarkets: Can new strategies address the geographic gaps?
  5. Pothukuchi, K. (2005). Attracting supermarkets to inner-city neighborhoods: Economic development outside the box. Economic Development Quarterly, 19(3): 232–244.
  6. Powell, L.M., Auld, M.C., Chaloupka, F.J., O’Malley, P.M., & Johnston, L.D. (2007). Associations between access to food stores and adolescent body mass index. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 33(4Suppl), S301–S307.
  7. Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity (2008). Access to Healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods: Opportunities for public policy. Rudd Report: Yale University. Retrieved November 15, 2010.

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.