Food cost disparities in rural communities

Health Promot Pract. 2015 May;16(3):383-91. doi: 10.1177/1524839914554454. Epub 2014 Oct 10.


Promotion of healthy eating is an effective public health strategy to prevent chronic disease incidence and progression. However, food prices can impede healthy eating, especially in rural communities. The purpose of this study was to determine whether food costs are associated with nutritional quality, geographic location, and month of year. The Overall Nutritional Quality Index and cost of 92 foods were assessed four times over a 10-month period in the primary grocery stores in four Kentucky counties, two rural and two urban. Repeated measures analysis of variance was used to assess differences in food costs by nutritional quality, county, and month. Among more nutritious food items, costs were lower in urban areas. This was particularly true among foods in the highest quartile of nutritional quality. Across all counties, there was a pattern of highest per-serving costs in the second quartile of nutritional quality, whereas more nutritious foods were less expensive. Strategies that help individuals improve the ability to identify and prepare less costly foods with high nutritional value may be effective in improving dietary habits, particularly in rural, impoverished food deserts.

Keywords: cardiovascular disease; health disparities; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Commerce / economics
  • Commerce / statistics & numerical data*
  • Food / economics*
  • Food Supply / economics
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Humans
  • Kentucky / epidemiology
  • Nutritional Status
  • Nutritive Value
  • Population Density
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data