Food Innovation Center

Collaborating for a healthier, hunger-free world.

Jill Clark Investigates Grocery Store Hours in Low-Income Hours and Socioeconomic Struggles

Getting more nutritious meals on the tables of low-income Americans could depend on the hours the stores in their neighborhoods keep.

Stores likely to sell fresh produce aren’t open as long in areas with more socioeconomic struggles, and that problem is more pronounced in neighborhoods where many African Americans live, new research from The Ohio State University has found.

In affluent neighborhoods, 24-7 access to a wide array of foods is far more common.

jill"It's just another burden that we are placing on families that already have so many burdens.""Let's say you're stringing together a few jobs and you get off work at 10 and your market closes at 8. It's a big problem," said FIC member Dr. Jill Clark, an assistant professor in Ohio State's John Glenn College of Public Affairs.

Advocates and policymakers have invested extensively in working to eliminate food deserts - areas with limited or no large grocery stores or supercenters.

But they fall short when they look only at proximity, density and diversity of food retail stores and ignore the little-discussed problem of operating hours, Clark said.

Future policy changes – including those that pertain to the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – should include opportunities to help meet consumers’ needs, such as extending store hours or ensuring transportation is available to get consumers to stores that are open, Clark said.

She and Xiang Chen, now of Arkansas Tech University, found that time-related obstacles were greatest in lower-income African-American neighborhoods where people also are more likely to face challenges including single parenthood and work schedules that make it difficult to shop. Their work appeared this month in the journal The Professional Geographer.

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