Special Report

Cities With the Most Dangerous Diets

4. Mobile, Ala.
> Poverty rate: 21.1% (13th highest)
> Pct. households on food stamps: 21.6% (7th highest)
> Pct. obese: 31.3% 20th highest
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 9.6% (31st highest)

Like much of the southern United States, poverty has led to poor eating habits and negative health outcomes in the Mobile metro area. A typical household in the region earned less than $40,000 in 2012, among the lowest median household incomes in the nation. Just 72.8% of survey respondents told Gallup last year they had enough money to buy food in the previous 12 months, nearly the lowest percentage among metro areas reviewed. Mobile residents also suffered from exceptionally high rates of negative health outcomes. More than 31% were considered obese, and 13.3% were diagnosed with diabetes in 2013, both among the worst measures of physical health.

3. Columbus, Ga.-Ala.
> Poverty rate: 18.7 % (28th highest)
> Pct. households on food stamps: 20.6% (9th highest)
> Pct. obese: 32.5% (13th highest)
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 13.6% (6th highest)

While nearly 81% of Americans told Gallup they had enough money for food, just 67.1% of Columbus residents said the same, the lowest percentage among metro areas reviewed. More than 20% of households relied on food stamps in 2012, and only 57.3% of residents told Gallup they ate healthy all day last year, among the lowest percentages. Like most regions with poor diets, Columbus residents had exceptionally low rates of educational attainment. Just 21.9% had completed at least a bachelor’s degree in 2012, among the lower rates in the country.

2. Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
> Poverty rate: 18.1% (35th highest)
> Pct. households on food stamps: 16.1% (38th highest)
> Pct. obese: 30.7% (29th highest)
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 11.5% (13th highest)

The Shreveport-Bossier metro area has 30 food deserts — defined as areas where people have low income and little access to healthy food — making it extremely difficult for residents to consume a healthy diet. Residents likely find it very difficult to afford healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, as more than 16% of households relied on food stamps in 2012. Also, the median household income in the Shreveport metro area was $44,118 in 2012, well below the national median. Notably, 23.6% of people felt that they did not have enough money to buy necessary food items at all times last year.

1. New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La.
> Poverty rate: 14.6% (66th lowest)
> Pct. households on food stamps: 17.1% (28th highest)
> Pct. obese: 28.7% (54th highest)
> Pct. unable to afford fruits/veggies: 9.8% (26th highest)

Residents of the New Orleans metro area have the most unhealthy diets among U.S. cities. Area residents were more likely to suffer from a number of negative health outcomes than the average American, including diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Like most metro areas with poor diets, eating habits are likely related to economic factors. Just around three-quarters of survey respondents told Gallup last year they had enough money to buy food in the past 12 months, among the lower rates for areas reviewed. And area households were far more likely than Americans to rely on food stamps. Access and proximity to healthy food is another factor contributing to unhealthy diets. The USDA classified 50 communities in the region as food deserts, a higher figure than in every other area on this list.