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Grocery stores: Forgotten link in community-based food systems?

Caroline B. Webber, MPH, RD and Jamie S Dollahite, PhD, RD. Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, MVR Hall, 3M28, Ithaca, NY NY, 607-254-5498, cbw22@cornell.edu

Purpose: Community-based food systems often focus on direct farm-to-consumer pathways and attempt to skip the "middle man". However, for most households, retail food stores remain the principal source of food, including fruits and vegetables. The purpose of this research was to understand how low-income households gain access to fruits and vegetables, and retail food stores make these available, in the context of community setting.

Method and Results: A study, using qualitative research methods based on grounded theory and an ecological conceptual framework, was conducted at three research sites in upstate New York (one urban and two rural). Twenty-eight low-income households (<185% U.S. poverty line) and 15 retail food store owners/managers were selected using purposive and theoretical sampling and then interviewed. Households were asked about attitudes toward local food stores and shopping habits, particularly surrounding fruits and vegetables, and were asked to record shopping practices during two seasons. Local stores were interviewed regarding store structure, operations and distributors, greatest challenges, and community relations. Data were analyzed using the constant comparative method and reviewed by participants and professional peers. It was found that store management-owner relations and store management styles appear to be related to receptivity to community-based food endeavors. Low-income households’ expectations of grocery store produce includes quality and value in addition to cost.

Conclusions: Retail food stores differ from one another in many ways. So, too, low-income consumers have differing expectations of these stores. Understanding these differences, as well as what they hold in common, may generate new ideas about how to make fruits and vegetables more accessible, particularly to households and neighborhoods with few resources.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, the participant will be able to

Keywords: Food and Nutrition, Community Development

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.

Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption: What's New?

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