Observance of the hunger-obesity paradox in urban Minnesota has ignited interest in the quality of low-income households' food purchases. This cross-sectional study investigated low-income, urban Minnesotan women's past-month food purchases and their associations with race, homelessness, and aspects of the food system, including food shelf (ie, food pantry) and food store usage, factors believed to influence food choice and grocery shopping behavior. The survey included demographics, the US Department of Agriculture's 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module, and grocery shopping questions related to food purchases and food stores visited in the past month. Participants were a convenience sample of 448 low-income, urban Minnesotan women, and data were collected from February through May 2008. The sample was 44% African American, 35% American Indian, 10% white, and 11% other/mixed race; 37% were homeless. Rates of "less healthy" food group purchases were higher compared to "healthy" food group purchases. Significant racial differences were found with respect to purchasing healthy protein food groups (P<0.05 to P<0.01) but not fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. Homelessness reduced the odds of purchasing most food groups, regardless of nutrient density (P<0.05 to P<0.001). Food shelf and food store usage mainly increased the odds of purchasing "less healthy" food groups (P<0.05 to P<0.01). These findings may help registered dietitians strategize with low-income, urban women how to make best use of food resources within their local food system.