This is an older article, but I don’t think it was ever posted here.
“When we put supermarkets in poor neighborhoods, people are buying the same food,” said Barry Popkin, a professor of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina, who participated in an Institute of Medicine review of food desert research in 2009. “They just get it cheaper.”
It’s possible that poverty itself explains a lot of the shopping variation. In general, fresher, healthier food is more expensive to buy than less healthy processed food. It also takes more time and resources to cook, and keeps for fewer days.
I can think of one food that is relatively inexpensive, healthy, takes little time and few resources to prepare, and keeps for at least a year.
Unfortunately, it seems education plays a big part as well:
If people can’t afford healthier foods, then it would be reasonable to think that just giving them a better store wouldn’t solve their problems. But Ms. Handbury’s paper found that the education of the shoppers was much more predictive than their incomes. Poorer families bought less healthy food than richer ones. But a bigger gap was found between families with and without a college education. Those results, Ms. Handbury said, suggest that improving people’s diets will require both making food accessible and affordable and also changing people’s perceptions and habits about diet and health.
That seems a much harder problem to solve, even if Soylent is readily available.