Human beings need a wide variety of nutrients to supply essential energy, protein, vitamins and minerals to the body. If any one of these nutrients is deficient in a person's diet, then malnutrition develops.
Generally, the most serious malnutrition occurs when the diet is deficient in energy and protein. In disadvantaged communities, diets are often lacking in energy and protein, which automatically also leads to deficiencies in most of the other essential nutrients: children suffering from energy and protein malnutrition also tend to have deficiencies of iron, calcium and other vitamins and minerals.
Adults with conditions that interfere with food uptake, such as insufficient stomach acid, a common condition in older individuals, may suffer from iron, calcium or zinc deficiencies, despite the fact that their diet may contain adequate quantities of these nutrients.
Access to affordable food supermarkets offering healthy food choices is essential. There are few large chain grocery stores in low-income city areas. These stores offer a wide variety of healthy food selections such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and meats, and alternatives to high-sodium and high-fat snacks. Most grocery stores available to residents in these regions carry few perishables and instead rely upon prepared and frozen foods with low nutritional value. Most of these stores accept food stamps for what is considered by health experts to be “junk food.”