Your food choices are influenced by your proximity to a grocery store.

If you live in the northeast and don’t have access to a grocery store, you may find yourself with a surplus of bacon, mayonnaise, and cookies. Bagels, spinach, and hummus, on the other hand, could be on your menu if you live in a place with convenient access to a store.

At least, that’s what Instagram’s data says. (Food, it seems, reigns supreme on this social media platform.)

Three million geo-tagged Instagram posts were studied by Georgia Institute of Technology researchers. They used it to describe the dietary preferences and nutrient characteristics of people living in two groups of communities: food deserts (those without access to a grocery store) and non-food deserts (those with access to a grocery store) (living with a grocery store in close proximity).

According to Munmun De Choudhury, the study’s lead author, “the USDA recognizes food deserts dependent on the supply of fresh food.” “Instagram gives us a snapshot of what people in these groups are really eating, helping us to research them in a different way.”

Food posted—and eaten—by people in food deserts has 5 to 17 percent more calories, cholesterol, and sugars than food shared in non-food desert areas, according to the researchers.

When the data was dissolved, the researchers discovered what people consume in different parts of the country, based on whether they live in a food desert or not. Here’s a brief overview of what they discovered:

Region Food Deserts Non-Food Deserts
Southeast Bacon, potatoes and grits Collard greens, oranges and peaches
Midwest Hamburgers, hot dogs and brisket Beans, spinach and kale
West Pie, beef and sausage Quinoa, apple and crab
Southwest Barbeque, pork and burritos Tomatoes, asparagus and bananas

“The main distinction is fruits and vegetables,” De Choudhury said. “They’re included in 48% of posts by people who don’t live in food deserts. In food deserts, it’s just 33 percent.”

Furthermore, the photos that appeared on Instagram continued to be the staples of each area. This was so regardless of whether they lived in a food desert or not.

The major posts in the West is steak and chocolate. In the East, lox and cheesecake came out on top. In the South, okra and biscuits are big champions.

Dr Choudhury said, “It doesn’t matter where you live.” “Everyone tends to consume the foods that are associated with their region.”

SOURCE: People in Food Deserts Eat Much Differently than the Rest of America. News Release. Georgia Institute of Technology

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