Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

A comparison of the availability and affordability of a market basket in two communities in the Chicago area

Daniel Blocka1 c1 and Joanne Koubaa2

a1 Department of Geography, Sociology, Economics, and Anthropology, Chicago State University, 9501 South King Drive, Chicago, IL 60628, USA

a2 School of Nursing at Loyola University Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA


Objective The purpose of the present study was to characterise the food landscape of an inner city African American neighbourhood and its mixed-race suburban neighbour. Detailed analysis focuses on the relationship between community store mix and price, availability and produce quality.

Design A market basket study was completed by members of the Chicago Food Systems Collaborative. The US Department of Agriculture's standard market basket survey and methodology were used. Additional items and analyses were added in consultation with community members.

Setting Austin is a lower-middle-class African American community of 117 500 on the western edge of Chicago. Oak Park, which borders Austin, is an upper-middle-income suburb of 52 500 with a mixed racial profile.

Subjects A market basket survey of every retail food store in Austin and Oak Park was completed. A total of 134 were included.

Results Results indicate that Austin has many grocery stores and few supermarkets. Many Austin groceries stores carry produce that is usually competitively priced, but often of unacceptable quality. Supermarkets had the best selection. Prices were lowest at discount supermarkets. Prices of packaged items were higher at independent stores than at chain supermarkets, but fresh items were cheaper.

Conclusions Food access is related more to store type than number. In this study, item availability and produce quality varied greatly between store types. Price differences were complicated and varied by store type and food category. This has consequences in terms of food purchasing decisions and dietary quality that public health professionals should acknowledge.

(Received March 16 2005)

(Accepted December 12 2005)


c1 *corresponding author: Email