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Study eyes grocery shopping habits of Hill District residents

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 7:33 a.m.

Hill District residents don't always choose the closest option for grocery shopping, according to a Rand Corp. study released on Wednesday that is examining shopping habits in the Hill before and after a store is built there.

“That surprised me,” said Beatrice Carter of the Hill, a survey participant. “I take the bus two or three times a month to go grocery shopping. I go to the closest store.”

For her, that's a Giant Eagle in the South Side.

“Of the people who said they go to a full-service grocery store, 62 percent of the residents said they weren't going to the closest grocery store,” said Tamara Dubowitz, a senior policy researcher at Rand.

About 18 percent said they take public transit to shop; 26 percent take a jitney; 17 percent get a ride; and the rest drive themselves.

Carter plans to shop at the Shop n' Save slated to be built at the corner of Centre Avenue and Heldman Street by summer. She hopes her neighbors will go there as well rather than traveling to wholesale and specialty stores farther away, so the store succeeds.

Construction is scheduled to begin next week after a funding shortfall stalled the $11.5 million project.

Rand researchers are studying where shoppers in the Hill District buy food, how they travel there, what they buy and other factors that could change once the Hill's first major grocery store in two decades opens. They're also examining the before-and-after prevalence of ailments such as high cholesterol and blood pressure and frequency of exercise.

It's part of a five-year, $2.7 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health of grocery shopping, eating habits and health in the Hill District and Homewood. Neither has a full-service grocery store.

Rand researchers presented key findings of the first phase of their study at a meeting held at the nonprofit Hill House Association on Centre Avenue.

Forty-two percent of those surveyed said they have experienced a problem known as “food insecurity,” meaning they ran out of food before they had enough money to buy more. That compares with 13 percent of households statewide.

“Our goal is to make sure that this information can be used for health programs and polices related to health,” said Dubowitz.

Data collectors surveyed the primary shopper in 896 households from a randomly selected sample of 1,809 addresses in the Hill. Researchers will discuss the results of a similar survey at a public meeting in Homewood at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, 7140 Bennett St.

Jeremy Boren is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7935 or jboren@tribweb.com.

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