Special Report

Cities With the Most Dangerous Diets

7. El Paso, Texas
> Poverty rate: 24.0% (5th highest)
> Pct. households on food stamps: 24.6% (4th highest)
> Pct. obese: 29.3% (46th highest)
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 8.9% (tied, 45th highest)

Low income families in El Paso likely struggle to maintain a healthy diet. Nearly a quarter of the population lived below the poverty line in 2012, a higher rate than all but four metro areas reviewed. Similarly, nearly a quarter of households used food stamps, while still only three-quarters of people surveyed had enough money to buy food at all times throughout the past 12 months. Although 91% of respondents reported that it was easy to obtain affordable fruits and vegetables, only 53.2% of respondents said they ate five servings at least four days a week, one of the lowest proportions on the list. Just over 65% of residents had health insurance, considerably less than the national rate of 82.5%.

6. Springfield, Mass.
> Poverty rate: 17.2 % (52nd highest)
> Pct. households on food stamps: 19.5% (12th highest)
> Pct. obese: 24.6% (57th lowest)
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 9.3% (38th highest)

A typical household in Springfield earned $51,531 in 2012, the only area among other metro areas with poor diets with income exceeding the national median of $51,371. Residents also benefit from the state’s exceptional health care system. Ninety-two percent had a personal doctor, and 95% had health insurance, among the highest rates nationwide. Still, nearly 20% of households relied on food stamps, among the higher rates nationwide. Limited access to grocery stores also likely contributed to lower food security. More than 28% of Springfield residents had low access to stores in 2010, among the higher proportions in the country. Unlike most metro areas with poor diets, Springfield had a low obesity rate, at 24.6% last year — less than the national rate of 27.1%

5. Jackson, Miss.
> Poverty rate: 22.2% 11th highest
> Pct. households on food stamps: 16.2% (35th highest)
> Pct. obese: 33.8% (8th highest)
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 12.0% (11th highest)

Poor access to healthy food may be just one of Jackson residents’ worries, as high numbers of people living in the area struggle to find other basic needs. More than 22% of the population within the metro area lived below the poverty line in 2012. Last year, some 16% of respondents said that they did not have enough money for adequate shelter at some point in the past 12 months, one of the worst rates in the nation. Nearly 10% of respondents felt they could not easily obtain clean and safe water, also one of the worst rates in the nation. Although Jackson area residents had higher rates of educational attainment than other metro areas on this list, the typical household’s income was still very low, at $42,604 in 2012.