Check out this map, from the good folks at Sociological Images. The red parts of the map are locations where there are more bars than grocery stores. The yellow parts of the map are where grocery stores outnumber bars.
After nearly three years at the University of Iowa, this map seems about accurate: Midwestern college towns must have bars outnumbering grocery stores by a margin of 10 to 1. Indeed, it’s fitting that this research comes out of the University of Wisconsin:
According to my totally unscientific online research, La Crosse, Wisconsin is home to more than 360 bars and holds the Guinness Book of World Records for the most bars per capita and most bars on one street. In Medford, Wisconsin, apparently there’s one bar for every 455 people.
And I see a little cluster around what might be my current hometown in Pittsburgh. Indeed, given how hard it is to buy alcohol outside of a bar in Pennsylvania, I’d expect to see the whole state light up red.
While you might think that places with more grocery stores than bars would be more virtuous, it’s the Midwest that seems to be the reddest area on the map, while those heathens on the East Coast seem rather teetotaling.
Are we looking at the beer belly of America?
Or, are we looking at areas of food deserts — where grocery stores with fresh, healthier food aren’t available, encouraging people to eat pre-packaged and more highly caloric snacks on the run? In which case we stop laughing at Midwestern beer bellies and start crying about our national obesity epidemic once more.