KANSAS CITY, Mo. – If your weekly trip to the grocery store is quite a trek, you are not the only one in such a situation. A new study finds that many Missourians in both cities and rural areas find themselves living in “food deserts,” meaning that residents have to travel 10 miles or more to find a supermarket.

The Food Trust report says improving access to markets would improve health, as well as create jobs and revenue for communities. According to program manager Miriam Minon, people living in under-served counties eat fewer fruits and vegetables and are more apt to be overweight.

“Residents are likely to experience high rates of diet-related disease, things like diabetes, obesity.”

Even when small stores are nearby, the report notes that they’re not always stocked with a variety of fresh and healthy foods.

The study makes recommendations on how to help communities open and support local grocery stores.

Minon says there are a number of successful models that pull together both private and public interests, and the Trust is working on setting up a program in Missouri. She says it would be similar to the Fresh Food Financing Initiative in Pennsylvania, which helps developers overcome some of the high initial investment costs.

“The program has been able to get stores to open all across the state in previously under-served areas and to help existing grocers who are interested in expanding their offerings.”

Minon says improving access isn’t a silver bullet to improve eating habits, but it is an important factor in reducing obesity.

More information is at www.thefoodtrust.org.