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We're junkies when it comes to junk food

Charlotte area ranks 5th in filling grocery carts with yummy stuff.

By Kathleen Purvis
kpurvis@charlotteobserver.com

In the list of things that draw attention to Charlotte, here's one you may not want to read:

On a list of the 10 U.S. cities where people spend the most amount of their yearly grocery bill on unhealthy food, Charlotte is No. 5.

A study of product purchases found that in the Charlotte metro area – defined as Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord – we spend 10.9percent of our annual food dollars in the unhealthy category.

That would be things like cake and brownie mixes, cookies, candies, frozen pizza, full-fat mayonnaise, chips and salty snacks, soft drinks, ice cream, bacon and sausage.

We don't do as badly as the No.1 spot – Minneapolis-St. Paul, where people spend 11.5 percent.

But of the 10 cities at the top, six are in the South. And among those, Charlotte is behind only Richmond, Va., second on the list.

The others, after Minneapolis and Richmond: Indianapolis, Chicago, Charlotte, Louisville, Ky., New Orleans, Nashville, Tenn., Memphis, Tenn., and Milwaukee.

Yes, folks – we did worse than New Orleans, a perennial target for unhealthy habits.

The study, released earlier this month, was commissioned by Forbes.com, which asked a Florida-based research company, Catalina Marketing, to look at purchases of unhealthy foods in the 50 largest metropolitan areas.

The study included most supermarket chains, including Harris Teeter, Food Lion and Bi-Lo, but not club and mass merchandisers, drugstores and Wal-Mart.

So which cities spent the least on unhealthy foods?

Laurie Wachter, Catalina's senior vice president of analytics, said the differences get so small at the bottom of the list, it is impossible to say which city is last. But the bottom five areas are Providence, R.I.; Boston; Portland, Ore.; Hartford, Conn.; and Austin/San Antonio.

What do you say? Let's mail them all a few bags of pork rinds.

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