In many areas of Massachusetts, transportation-related barriers make it difficult or impractical for people to regularly obtain healthy food. Often in these cases, there are simply not enough stores with healthy food nearby. Some cities, including Boston, Springfield, and Brockton have as much as 30 percent fewer supermarkets per capita compared to the national average. In addition, existing supermarkets are unevenly distributed, with lower-income communities having disproportionately less access to them. This shortage means that residents, particularly those in lower-income communities, must travel out of their neighborhoods to reach the nearest store that sells fresh produce and other foods necessary to maintain a healthy diet.1
Reliable transportation is essential for accessing sources of healthy food. Yet in some urban areas, one-third or more of residents do not own or have access to a car, making public transit critical for accessing healthy food at grocery stores. Yet in some areas, transit service ends as early as 6:30 p.m., and the number of grocery bags allowed on buses is typically limited to two or three. Further, public transportation is not available in many rural areas.
In addition, as the number of senior citizens continues to grow, there are more people with mobility limitations. More than one in ten residents report having one or more disabilities.2
Farmers markets are an important source of healthy food, and much of it is locally produced. Yet seasonal market operations and limited hours often reduce the ability of many people without a car to patronize farmers markets.