New Study: Whole Foods Market Shoppers = Skinny; Albertsons Shoppers = Not So Skinny

A new study out of my Alma mater, the University of Washington, compared the Body Mass Index of shoppers at various grocery stores in Seattle and found a stark contrast between those shopping at high priced Whole Foods Market and low cost Albertsons.

In the Seattle area, a region with an average obesity rate of about 20percent, only about 4 percent of shoppers who filled their carts at Whole Foods Market stores were obese, compared with nearly 40 percent of shoppers at lower-priced Albertsons stores...

It’s not a matter of availability, Drewnowski said. All of the stores in his study stocked a wide range of nutritious food, including plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Instead, he contends it’s because healthy, low-calorie foods cost more money and take more effort to prepare than processed, high-calorie foods. In a separate study two years ago, Drewnowski estimated that a calorie-dense diet cost $3.52 a day compared with $36.32 a day for a low-calorie diet.

This may seem like a random elitist study but for those of us engaged in issues of healthy food availability to low income folks, the study is significant, even if it isn't surprising. Through food distributions with Second Harvest, the WIC and EBT programs at the farmers' markets and my work as a master food preserver I've found myself amidst a very thoughtful community of people trying to come up with real world responses to issues of poverty, health and food availability. An example of the challenge is the W.I.C. program in Spokane County that provides food vouchers to low income families to be used for fresh foods at farmers' markets. Every year, over half of the vouchers that are distributed go unredeemed.

Here's the break down of what they found in Seattle area grocery stores;

Seattle researchers ranked supermarkets according to the obesity rates of their shoppers at these Northwest and national grocery stores. A body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher indicated obesity.

— Whole Foods Markets: 4 percent
— Metropolitan Market: 8 percent
— Puget Consumers Cooperative (PCC): 12 percent
— Quality Food Centers (QFC): 17 percent
— Fred Meyer: 22 percent
— Safeway: 24 percent

— Albertsons: 38 percent