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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Study Finds Boston Public Housing Residents Lack Access to Healthy Foods

Access and affordability are key barriers to Boston public housing residents who want to eat healthy and exercise, with many citing challenges getting to markets that have fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, according to a study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Residents interviewed for the study, published in a special issue of the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, expressed disdain for expensive bodegas and corner stores, but said transportation problems made it hard for them to travel to “lower-priced, higher variety markets.”

Separately, they identified cost, the requirement of a checking account or credit card, and a lack of affordable childcare as barriers to joining a gym where they could exercise.

The findings, based on focus-group interviews with 67 English- or Spanish-speaking residents of four city housing developments, shed light on the reasons why public housing residents are more likely to report fair or poor overall health status, diabetes, obesity, and a lack of physical activity compared with other Boston residents of comparable income levels.

“Their knowledge of healthy nutritional choices, food preparation, and diet was not the primary barrier to healthy eating,” the authors said. Instead, “we learned of immediate needs and opportunities for interventions focused on transportation to low-cost, high-quality food purchasing options and gyms. These interventions could be tested among various public and private entities, from transportation companies (taxi-cab services) to the Transportation Authority.”

To read more about the study, go to: