Poorer neighborhoods have more shops with unhealthy food
People living in poorer neighborhoods have almost twice as many options to buy unhealthy food than those living in areas with higher income levels, Pointer found in an analysis of national catering and retail data from Lcoatus for 2011 and 2021. The number of fresh food options is the same in poor and rich neighborhoods, the investigative program reported.
The analysis showed that the number of fast-food locations, donut shops, ice cream parlors, and doner shops increased explosively between 2011 and 2021, while fresh shops like bakeries and greengrocers decreased.
A closer look at the 2021 data showed that people living in neighborhoods with many low-income residents have a much bigger supply of unhealthy food options. There is an average of 11 unhealthy food tents per 10,000 inhabitants in these neighborhoods. While in high-income neighborhoods, there are only 6 unhealthy food options per 10,000 residents. The number of fresh food shops is the same in all neighborhoods at 6 per 10,000 residents on average.
Data from Statistics Netherlands show that people with low incomes are at higher risk of obesity. In the lowest income bracket, 18.7 percent of people are obese, compared to 9.6 percent in the highest income group. Research by the RIVM previously showed that Netherlands residents with a low level of education live about 6 years shorter and 15 years less in good health than highly educated people.
Jaap Seidell, a food scientist at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, called Pointer's findings deeply concerning. "We see that supply drives demand. That means that if there is a lot of unhealthy food available, a lot of unhealthy food is eaten," he said to a program. He finds it extra worrying that poorer neighborhoods struggle more with this problem. "Children who grow up there already don't have it easy. All this temptation exacerbates their problems. Municipalities should be able to set limits on the amount of junk food per neighborhood."
State Secretary Maarten van Ooijen of Prevention (Public Health) announced last week that the government is working on a law that will allow municipalities to limit the number of fast-food restaurants opening in their neighborhoods. He will discuss the law with parliament on Thursday.