205276 Examining local food environments: Objective and subjective measures of access to healthful foods

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 10:45 AM

Darcy A. Freedman, PhD , College of Social Work, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Bethany A. Bell, PhD , College of Education, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
There is mounting evidence that local food environments vary by social context with low-income and racial/ethnic minority communities experiencing less access to stores selling a wide variety of healthful foods. Few studies, however, have examined community members' perceptions of access to healthful foods. This analysis compares two sources of data focused on the quality of local food environments: food store audits and self-reported perceptions of local food environment. Data were collected in three primarily African American urban communities in Nashville, TN as a part of a farmers' market intervention study. Thirty-three food store audits and 81 interviews were conducted. Differences between perceptions and store audit indicators were examined using chi-square analyses. Statistically significant differences were noted between self-reported perceptions of local food environments and objective measures from store audits. Sixty-three percent of participants reported that it was easy to buy fresh fruits and vegetables in their neighborhood, yet only 36% of stores sold at least one fresh fruit or vegetable [X2(1, N = 81) = 25.56, p <.05]. Also, 58% of participants reported that it was easy to buy healthy foods in their community, yet only 36% of stores sold at least one healthful option (i.e., fresh fruit/vegetable, low-fat milk) [X2(1, N = 82) = 17.05, p <.05]. Findings reveal that food access is a complex phenomenon; it is not merely a measure of physical access to food. Research approaches that take into account the complexity of local food environments ought to be developed and utilized.

Learning Objectives:
1. Identify social factors influencing access to healthful foods. 2. Articulate the relationship between local food environments and public health. 3. Compare objective and subject measures of food access. 4. Discuss research approaches and theories for future research aimed at examining and addressing local food environments.

Keywords: Food Security, Social Inequalities

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: PhD, Vanderbilt University MPH, Emory University Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina Affiliated Scholar, Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities Freedman, D.A. (2008). Politics of food access in food insecure communities. Unpublished dissertation. Vanderbilt University: Nashville, TN Freedman, D.A. (in press). Local food environments: they’re all stocked differently. American Journal of Community Psychology. Freedman, D.A. (2009, February). Barriers to accessing healthy foods. Oral presentation at the Office of Minority Health’s Third National Leadership Summit on Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health, National Harbor, MD.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.