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Pork, mayonnaise, and cookies versus bagels, kale, and hummus. That’s the glaring difference in food choices between two groups of people in the Northeastern United States.

The foods on the first list are more exclusive to social media feeds of people living in Northeastern food deserts, a term used by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to describe communities with limited access to grocery stores with fresh food. The second list is more exclusive to non-food deserts.

A new study has identified the food choices and nutritional profiles of people living in both types of communities throughout the United States. It included three million geotagged posts on the social media platform where food is king: Instagram. The researchers found that food posted by people in food deserts is 5 to 17 percent higher in fat, cholesterol, and sugars compared to food postings shared by people in areas with more grocery stores.

“Instagram literally gives us a picture of what people are actually eating in these communities, allowing us to study them in a new way,” said Munmun De Choudhury, an assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing.

The research was presented at the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing. The breakdown of foods in other regions includes:

  • Southeast: bacon, potatoes, and grits vs. collard greens, oranges, and peaches.
  • Midwest: hamburgers, hot dogs, and brisket vs. beans, spinach, and kale.
  • West: pie, beef, and sausage vs. quinoa, apples, and crab.
  • Southwest: barbeque, pork, and burritos vs. tomatoes, asparagus, and bananas.

— Jason Maderer

stock photo - fast food and healthy food

Photo composite:

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