A supermarket is more than simply a place to buy food. It can serve as a community anchor for economic development and job growth, according to Alan Berube, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, who recently authored a report, entitled, “Getting to Market.”

In this survey, the Brookings Institution, in conjunction with The Reinvestment Fund recently examined supermarket access in ten metro areas around the county, revealing “significant but variable” gaps in supermarket access. The analysis found that nearly two million residents in many lower- and moderate-income communities across the U.S. lack access to local grocery stores.

The benefits of supermarket access are numerous, as discussed in a video presentation on the Brookings website. In communities with greater access to grocery stores, retail competition can result in lower food costs for the consumer. Stores can offer a wider selection of goods, providing a variety of healthy options such as produce and other perishable items. These communities tend to have lower rates of health issues such as diabetes and obesity.

“Getting to Market” examines several factors that contribute to low supermarket access in some communities, including higher start-up and operating costs, as well as a lack of accurate information regarding investment in these areas.

An interactive map allows planners and retailers to view demographic and economic data for underserved areas.

The report also discusses creative tools that have been used to overcome obstacles to providing supermarket access, and shares success stories in several communities.