South L.A. is full of discount supermarkets and mini-marts, which happen to be where many residents go grocery shopping.
Now new research is saying those places are bad for you.
That's according to the Seattle Obesity Study, which found that people who shop at lower-cost outlets are more likely to be obese than those who shop at higher-priced stores.
MSN/HealthDay reports that only nine percent of the study's participants who shopped at high-end supermarkets were obese; that number shot up to 27 percent for those who frequented discount stores.
Deborah Young, a research scientist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research and Evaluation in Pasadena, says it's difficult to shop healthy when funds are tight, as they are for many on the southside.
"The more processed foods are subsidized in a different way that makes them cheaper to get on the market than the fresh foods," she said. "If you have $100 and go into a grocery store, you're going to be able to get a lot more near USC than you are at a high-cost store."
And when you factor in a weekly budget, she said, priorities become clear.
"If you only have $100 or $40 for the week, most people are going to look at the actual monetary cost as opposed to the value of having a food that's fresher or a food that's more healthful for you and has more nutrients," she said.
The Seattle study found that only one in seven shoppers frequented the nearest supermarket. Young pointed to that as evidence that people do have options – and they use them.
"We have these food deserts in which there are no options for healthful foods – just fast food, small restaurants and maybe corner stores that aren't really stocked with more healthy options, particularly fruits and vegetables," she said. "And the assumption is that for people in those neighborhoods, that's their only option."
But, she says, that's often not the case.
"People still have access to transportation and they do drive to grocery stores and they don't necessarily shop at the nearest grocery store," Young explained. "If they do have transportation, they will choose a grocery store they want to go to."
She believes it is possible to eat healthy even in unhealthy areas where money is tight, and suggests that people watch the sales, and get to those sales whenever possible. Young also says cooking at home is both healthier and usually cheaper than "what's immediately available" – fast food. Look for different sources of protein besides meat, which is expensive. Finally: Try the farmers market at the end of the day, and see if you can strike a deal to take home some of the leftover produce on the cheap.
"Purchasing behavior and shopping patterns are very complex. People often want options," she said. "Just because someplace is the closest – maybe someone doesn't like that store, and he or she would rather drive or take a bus another mile to find a store that he or she likes better, that has the options or prices he or she wants."