259917 Do urban farmers' markets benefit community nutrition? Maybe not

Wednesday, October 31, 2012 : 1:10 PM - 1:30 PM

Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, MS , Department of Family and Social Medicine, Albert EInstein College of Medicine / Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY
Omar Sanon , -, College of Arts and Sciences, New York University, New York, NY
Rafael Frias, BA , -, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Andrew Maroko, PhD , Department of Health Sciences, Lehman College, City University of New York, Bronx, NY
Clyde Schechter, MD , Department of Family and Social Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
INTRODUCTION: Farmers' markets may provide a means to improve nutrition in underserved urban communities. However, there has been little research on farmers' markets, and how they contribute to urban food environments is unknown. We sought to assess farmers' markets in the Bronx in the context of the produce stores nearest to them. METHODS: Researchers visited all 26 Bronx farmers' markets in summer 2011, as well as the two stores selling fresh produce nearest each market. Researchers assessed the variety, quality, and price of all items at farmers' markets, comparing farmers'-markets' produce to produce at their nearest stores. RESULTS: About 25% of all farmers'-markets' items were “processed or prepared” foods (e.g., pies, jams, cakes, cookies, ciders) and honey. Sales staff at about 50% of farm stands encouraged the purchase of non-produce items (e.g., donuts, juices, quiches); at 70% of farmers' markets, these items were “best sellers”. All farmers' markets were within 0.5 mile of a store selling greater than twice as many kinds of fresh produce on average. Store produce was usually cheaper, although not as fresh or as frequently “organic.” Stores were generally open 7 days/week all year long; farmers' markets were generally open part of one weekday for only a few months. CONCLUSIONS: Farmers' markets sell and promote items that are not optimal for good nutrition and health, and they carry more-expensive, less-varied produce in neighborhoods that already have stores with cheaper prices and better hours. Farmers' market may not improve food environments in urban communities.

Learning Areas:
Biostatistics, economics
Chronic disease management and prevention
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
1. Describe the foods available at urban farmers’ markets in the Bronx in terms of variety, quality, and price. 2. To compare urban farmers’ markets to the stores nearest to them selling fresh fruits and vegetables in terms of produce availability, quality, and price. 3. To explain why urban farmers’ market may fall short of improving nutrition in underserved urban communities.

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 in the Bronx, treating 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.