206326 Mapping Healthy Food Lanscapes for WIC Participants

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 11:00 AM

Amy Hillier, PhD , Department of City & Regional Planning, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Jackie McLaughlin, MS RD , Master of Public Health Program, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
Allison Karpyn, PhD , The Food Trust, Philadelphia, PA

As part of a natural experiment to evaluate the impact of the WIC voucher changes that will go into effect in October 2009, we collected baseline information about the food environment and food purchases of WIC participants in two predominantly low-income areas in North Philadelphia. One of the areas is predominantly African-American; the other is predominantly Puerto-Rican. We adapted the Nutrition Environment Measure for Stores (NEM-S) to measure the availability of healthy foods in the 150 stores within the study area and administered a 15-minute survey about where WIC participants shop and what foods they purchase with 200 WIC participants using handheld computers.


We used vector GIS methods to map and analyze where WIC participants live relative to where they shop. We used raster GIS to map and analyze healthy food scores for individual stores and to create a healthy food “landscape.” Finally, we used cartographic modeling techniques to identify possible sources of “friction” that prevent WIC participants from shopping at the closest stores with the healthiest foods.

Expected Results

We expect to find that WIC participants do not always shop at the closest food store or the food stores with the greatest availability of healthy foods.


“Access” to healthy foods requires having those foods available and affordable. But barriers such as transportation, perceived neighborhood boundaries, cultural and language differences, and fear of crime likely present additional challenges to accessing healthy foods for residents of low-income residents

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the changes being made to the WIC vouchers, nationwide, starting in October 2009; 2. Discuss the difference between raster and vector GIS; 3. Conceptualize access to healthy food as spatially continuous and barriers to access as “friction.”

Keywords: Geographic Information Systems, Food and Nutrition

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Extensive experience teaching GIS; involved in several on-going health-related research studies at present. Most relevant publication would be: Amy Hillier (2008), “Childhood Overweight and the Built Environment: Making Technology Part of the Solution Rather than Part of the Problem,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 615(1): 56-82.
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.