Limited access to healthy foods captures the proportion of the population who are low income and do not live close to a grocery store. Living close to a grocery store is defined differently in rural and nonrural areas; in rural areas, it means living less than 10 miles from a grocery store, whereas in non-rural areas it means less than 1 mile. Low income is defined as having an annual family income of less than or equal to 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold for the family size.
There is strong evidence that residing in a food desert is correlated with a high prevalence of overweight, obesity, and premature death. Supermarkets traditionally provide healthier options than convenience stores or smaller grocery stores. Additionally, lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables is a substantial barrier to consumption and is related to premature mortality.