248600 Measuring an urban street food environment a method to assess street food vendors, and data, from the Bronx

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: 11:42 AM

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: Street food vendors may be an important aspect of urban food environments, yet they have been understudied. Methods are needed to conduct street-food-vendor assessments. We describe a method, and findings, from a street-food-vendor assessment in the Bronx. METHODS: Using Google-generated street maps, bilingual (English/Spanish) researchers drove the entire Bronx looking for street food vendors. Researchers recorded a unique identifier for each vendor, descriptions of items being sold, general observations, and asked vendors questions about where and when they sell. RESULTS: Two researchers needed 40 days to canvass the entire Bronx (42 square miles). Of 372 vendors identified, 40% could not be interviewed (48% in transit, 42% refused, 5% absent from their carts, 3% with customers). Of the interviews that did occur, 6% were limited by vendor reluctance/nervousness (mostly concern for regulatory authority), 5% by language barriers. Three quarters of vendors were most comfortable speaking Spanish; 5% preferred other non-English languages. There was considerable variability in times (months, days, hours) and locations (neighborhoods, boroughs) that vendors sold, with weather playing a significant role for 86% of vendors. Only 34% of vendors had visible permits/vending licenses, and many had improvised, illegitimate set-ups. DISCUSSION: Unlike restaurants and stores that generally have stable, legitimate presences in urban food environments, street food vendors are characterized by more fluid, and sometimes unlawful, presences. Fluidity in hours and location, and vendor reluctance to interact with individuals gathering data are principal challenges to collecting information about street food vendors. We will discuss strategies to overcome such challenges.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe a method for assessing street food vendors in an urban area, measuring what and when vendors sell, where, and under what circumstances. Identify potential challenges to obtaining information about and from street food vendors in future research. Suggest strategies to overcome street-food-vendor assessment challenges using specific data from the Bronx.

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.