Deprivation, diet, and food-retail access: findings from the Leeds 'food deserts' study
Within a context of public policy debate in the United Kingdom on social exclusion, health inequalities, and food poverty, the metaphor of the 'food desert' caught the imagination of those involved in policy development. Drawing from a major cross-disciplinary investigation of food access and food poverty in British cities, the authors report in this paper findings from the first 'before/after' study of food consumption in a highly deprived area of a British city experiencing a sudden and significant change in its food-retail access. The study has been viewed as the first opportunity in the United Kingdom to assess the impact of a non-healthcare intervention (specifically a retail-provision intervention) on food-consumption patterns, and by extension diet-related health, in such a deprived, previously poor-retail-access community. The paper offers evidence of a positive but modest impact of the retail intervention on diet, and the authors discuss the ways in which their findings are potentially significant in the context of policy debate.