248590 Street food vendors in the Bronx – A neglected but potentially important aspect of urban food environments

Wednesday, November 2, 2011: 1:42 PM

Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, MS , Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center / Albert EInstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Monica Varona, MEM , Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Durham, NC
Luis Torrens, BA , School of Public Health at Hunter College, City University of New York, New York, NY
Joel Bumol, BS , Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Yeshiva University, Bronx, NY
INTRODUCTION: Research on how food environments may contribute to people's dietary behaviors has focused mainly on stores and restaurants, and to a lesser extent on schools, homes, and worksites. Comparatively neglected have been street food vendors, which may be particularly important in urban communities. We sought to describe street food vendors in the Bronx. METHODS: Researchers drove the entire Bronx looking for street food vendors in summer and fall of 2010. For each vendor, researchers recorded a unique identifier, descriptions of items being sold, and vendors' answers to questions about what and when they sell. RESULTS: Researchers identified 372 street food vendors, placing vendors into six categories: Frozen novelty, e.g. ice cream trucks (44%), Produce, e.g. fruit stands (23%), Ethnic foods, e.g. empanada carts (10%), Other prepared foods, e.g. hot-dog carts (16%), Water (3%), and Other, e.g. candied nuts (4%). Only 11% of vendors selling prepared items sold any produce (e.g. salads). Conversely, 15% of produce vendors sold processed foods (e.g. cookies). Only one vendor offered whole grains (brown rice). No vendors sold low-fat milk, but 26% of produce vendors sold sugary drinks (often without diet options or water as alternative). DISCUSSION: Despite a large number and wide variety of street food vendors in the Bronx, low-fat milk and whole grains were essentially absent. Fruits and vegetables were relatively limited, whereas items high in fat, calories, salt, and/or added sugar were plentiful. The overall contribution of street food vendors to an urban food environment may be unhealthy on balance.

Learning Areas:
Chronic disease management and prevention
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Explain how street food vendors may contribute to urban food environments. Categorize different types of street food vendors and describe the kinds of foods and beverages they sell. Discuss relative proportions of “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods and beverages offered through street food vendors.

Keywords: Food and Nutrition, Environment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a grant-funded public-health researcher, focusing on how the food environment influences people's dietary behaviors. I am also a practicing family physician, treating urban, low-income, minority patients afflicted by obesity and diet-related diseases.
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.