Limited Supermarket Proximity


Years of Collection:

Why do we measure limited supermarket proximity? 

A community’s “food environment” can encourage healthy or unhealthy food consumption. Factors like distance to a store or restaurant, food prices, local marketing practices, and availability of food and nutrition assistance programs can all impact whether someone can access and/or afford nutritious food.(1)

Those who live in environments with limited supermarket proximity and a high number of fast food restaurants have a higher risk of developing diabetes and obesity.(2,3) These outcomes are particularly correlated for people living in low-income and rural neighborhoods/areas.(4)

How do we measure limited supermarket proximity? 

This metric represents the percent of the population in an area who live more than half a mile from a supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store (defined as establishments that report at least $2 million in annual sales and contain the same major food departments found in a traditional supermarket, including fresh produce, fresh meat and poultry, dairy, dry and packaged foods, and frozen foods).(5,6)

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

The metric measures how close residents live to nutritious food options.

Measuring limited supermarket proximity can help identify changes that improve access, such as agriculture policy, taxation on “junk” foods and/or subsidies for nutritious foods, zoning regulations, and nutrition assistance programs.(7)

This metric does not capture affordability and quality of food within a store. 

The metric lacks data on specific purchases within a store. It’s possible to purchase healthy food at a less healthy retailer and vice versa.(8)

There are other factors besides limited supermarket proximity that can affect people’s food choices, such as family structure or community food traditions. 

Half-a-mile distance may not accurately capture limited proximity in all places, including in areas where many people drive.


Limited supermarket proximity is calculated by the following formula:

Limited supermarket proximity = [Population living>0.5mile of a supermarket, supercenter, or large grocery store]/Total population x 100%

This metric was calculated by aggregating estimates from smaller geographies to the congressional district level. For more information, please refer to the Congressional District Health Dashboard Technical Document.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from Food Access Research Atlas data from the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. 


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. General Food Environment Resources. Updated March 6, 2014. Accessed September 17, 2017.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Census tract level state maps of the Modified Retail Food Environment Index (mRFEI). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013.

  3. Powell LM, Auld MC, Chaloupka FJ, O'Malley PM, Johnston LD. Associations between access to food stores and adolescent body mass index. Am J Prev Med. 2007;33(4 Suppl):S301-307.

  4. Larson NI, Story MT, Nelson MC. Neighborhood environments: disparities in access to healthy foods in the U.S. Am J Prev Med. 2009;36(1):74-81.

  5. Service USDoAER. Food Environment Research Atlas Documentation. United States Department of Agriculture. Updated March 31, 2022. Accessed March 9, 2023.

  6. Service USDoAER. Food Access Research Atlas Documentation. United States Department of Agriculture. Updated October 22, 2022. Accessed March 9, 2023.

  7. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Healthy Food Environment. Updated April 11, 2016. Accessed September 15, 2017

  8. Gustafson AA, Lewis S, Wilson C, Jilcott-Pitts S. Validation of food store environment secondary data source and the role of neighborhood deprivation in Appalachia, Kentucky. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:688.

Last updated: March 10, 2023