What are we measuring?
This measure tracks the percentage of residents who lack convenient access to markets where healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables are sold. Factors restricting access include physical proximity, access to a vehicle and household income. The calculation of the percentage required an in-depth analysis of data related to the locations of food markets. The methodology for the analysis drew from work by the U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at identifying "food deserts" across the country; however, in order to better inform policy decisions at the local level, the analysis was performed using geographic units roughly equating to neighborhoods.
Why are we measuring it?
Lack of healthy food choices can have a serious impact on the health of a community. A family without convenient access to a supermarket with a wide range of healthy food choices like fresh produce but with ready access to fast food is likely to rely on the latter. The consequence for a community can be higher rates of conditions such as obesity and diabetes as well as increased rates of cardiovascular disease. Lack of healthy foods can also affect a child's performance in school. For example, studies have shown that inadequate consumption of specific foods, such as fruits, vegetables, or dairy products, is associated with lower grades among students.
How are we doing?
Because there is no simple universal measure for access to healthy food, it is difficult to compare Fulton County to other places. The analysis that was performed indicates that approximately 22 percent of the county's population may have some level of difficulty purchasing healthy foods on a regular basis whether due to physical proximity, access to a vehicle, financial resources, or some combination of the three. Neighborhoods were also scored in terms of the severity of the problem with access. Two neighborhoods were identified as have the most severe problem while an additional six were identified as having a vert severe problem. It is hoped that the scoring will help focus efforts to alleviate the problem of access on the areas that are in greatest need.