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Understanding and improving the neighborhood food environment of low-income communities: Implications for policy and research

Leslie Mikkelsen, MPH, RD and Sana Chehimi, MPH. Prevention Institute, 265 29th Street, Oakland, CA 94611, 510-444-7738, leslie@preventioninstitute.org

More families than ever before are suffering the consequences of unhealthy eating, including an epidemic of overweight and obesity. Those who are at greatest risk for dietary-related diseases, low-income children and families, also face a significant but little-understood barrier to making healthy food choices, their neighborhood food environment.

The neighborhood food environment reflects both the availability of healthy foods within a community and the ease with which residents can access those foods. Research suggests that the environmental scarcity of healthy foods in many low-income neighborhoods make it more difficult to adhere to a nutritional lifestyle as compared to wealthier, resource-rich neighborhoods.

Measuring the associations between food environments and eating habits is a recent phenomenon. We conducted a review of selected literature, examining the available research on low-income food environments, currently practiced interventions and exploring how these environments influence family food choices. Components of the research included an analysis of existing literature and interviews with academic researchers and representatives from community food projects.

This session presents the state of neighborhood food research and describes commonly practiced food interventions. We will identify existing gaps and limitations in the research and current interventions. The findings indicate that efforts to change neighborhood food environments are an important part of an overall, comprehensive strategy to increase healthy eating and support positive community nutrition norms. This session delineates new research and policy priorities to improve neighborhood food environments and the nutritional status and health of low-income families.

See details at http://www.preventioninstitute.org/buildingbr.html#ccg and http://www.preventioninstitute.org/sa/enact.html.

Research funding came from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Learning Objectives:

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Influencing Policy for Nutrition and Physical Activity Issues

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA