Thursday, August 28, 2014

Most Fast Food Per Person and Other Food Facts

02/15/2010

We like maps here at the Daily Yonder and the new Food Environment Atlas is nothing but maps. The atlas tracks 90 measures relating to food and health. How many fast food restaurants does your county have per person? The atlas allows you to find out and map it -- as we have above.

The darker the green, the higher the ratio between fast food joints and people in your county on the map above. On the next page, you can find the fifty rural counties with the most fast food places per person. We hope we're not spoiling the fun by telling that San Juan County, Colorado, is a good place to buy some fries.

You can go to the site (here) and make your own maps. But to give you a taste, so to speak, we've made some maps here for you to gaze at on this Presidents' Day holiday. 

The atlas was released on the day First Lady Michelle Obama spoke about the "epidemic" of obesity. "We're determined to finally take on one of the most serious threats to their future, and that's the epidemic of childhood obesity in America today," Michelle Obama said in announcing the launch of a "Let's Move" campaign to increase Americans' physical activity and to reduce their weight. Okay, let's finish off the fast food story. Here are the fifty rural counties with the most fast food restaurants per person.

Now, here is a map (below) showing the average dollars spent per person at fast food joints. You'll see here that the data is reported by state only. 

So, how are we doing on this "Let's Move" thing? Below is a map showing the percent of adults in each state who were physically active. This amounted to doing 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week, or some combination of the two.

Now, let's take a look at what we eat. First, this map shows the differences among regions in how much meat and poultry each person purchases in a year. The darker the blue, the more meat is bought. Interesting, isn't it, that the East Coast urban areas chow down on meat more than folks in the farm and ranch areas on the Plains.

And how many gallons of soft drinks does the average person consume? Again, this measure is by region. It appears the Delta and Appalachia are the cola kings.

This next map shows the pounds of fruits and vegetable consumed per person. Again, the cities on the East Coast lead the way.

Finally, this map shows the adult obesity rates by county. Colorado is a skinny state. In the dark blue counties, between 35% and 43.5% of the adult population is obese.

 

Comments

Fast Food Definition

How do you define "Fast Food" in this data? Curious because Nantucket, for example, doesn't allow chains by law.  So there are no McDonalds, BK, KFC, etc... yet they are ranked well up the 'fast food restaurants per person' list. They have a very low year round population of course, so maybe even one or two would do it. But I can't think of even one.

The Meaning of Fast Food

Good question, popehammer. Here is what the Economic Research Service says is included in the fast food category, officially "limited-service" restaurants:

"Limited-service restaurants include establishments primarily engaged in providing food services (except snack and nonalcoholic beverage bars) where patrons generally order or select items and pay before eating. Food and drink may be consumed on premises, taken out, or delivered to the customer's location. Some establishments in this industry may provide these food services in combination with alcoholic beverage sales."

Sounds like the kind of places you get in vacation areas, even fancy ones!!

Re: Defining fast food

It does sound that way... I think this is a decent definition when attempting to look at a data set as large and as diverse as "counties in the US". I think owners of new age tofu bars and vegitarian sandwich shacks might complain that what we're really trying to uncover is the nutritional value of food and eating habits of the population rather than pinpointing whether customers pay before or after they eat... but there probably aren't enough of them to warrent a new definition. So... great work, interesting maps, and thanks for the reply!

Intepreting the data sets

As with any data set, it is important that one be careful in interpreting these results. For example, the Kansas communities making the list of high fast food per capita are, in fact, communities along the I-70 corridor.  The “fast food” joints in those communities are definitely in business almost exclusively to serve the mobile “community” traveling on the interstate. 

It is also interesting to look at specific areas (for instance, an area in Oregon) that seem to have significant "fast food penetration."  If you look at some of the other maps, it looks like the area of Oregon (or the state as a whole) has relatively low rates of spending on fast foods, high rates of physical activity, high rates of fruit/vegetable intake, and low rates of obesity.  The correlations one might expect to see do not, on first glance, seem to be apparent.

Fast Food maps

Just found this site. I'm already a fan. Great articles and graphics.

In this article, while I was impressed with the writing, I wonder if this particular paragraph makes too big of a leap?

"Now, let's take a look at what we eat. First, this map shows the differences among regions in how much meat and poultry each person purchases in a year. The darker the blue, the more meat is bought. Interesting, isn't it, that the East Coast urban areas chow down on meat more than folks in the farm and ranch areas on the Plains."

If we're assessing "how much meat and poultry each person purchases in a year" and I lived on a chicken ranch, wouldn't I (most likely) be eating chickens from my ranch rather than buying meat at the grocery or fast food place like folks in Boston or Philadelphia? If I purchased calves at auction, raised them into beef cattle, and slaughtered one for my family's consumption, would those dollars spent on meat show up on this map?

Thanks for giving voice to folks who typically have few outlets in (corporate) media.

Best,

Ella

Reel Relief Productions

Franklin, NC