142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Developing practice based metrics of food accessibility in low-income neighborhoods

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Monday, November 17, 2014 : 1:10 PM - 1:30 PM

Jerry Shannon, Ph.D. , Department of Geography, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Context: Current measures of food accessibility rely heavily on supply based measures, such as the proximity to local supermarkets. However, these measures are not always predictive of food consumption and dietary health outcomes (Lee, 2012; Caspi et al., 2012). This research project has taken an alternative approach, focusing on the food procurement practices of low-income individuals.

Methods: This mixed methods project was conducted in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota. Neighborhood level data on benefit usage for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was analyzed to identify the stores at which benefits were used during fiscal year 2010. Residents of two low-income neighborhoods (total n=38) kept a detailed food and travel diary for a five day study period. Semi-structured interviews with these study participants focused on the factors influencing their food shopping. 

Results: Data on SNAP utilization shows that residents often travel outside their neighborhoods for major shopping trips, even when supermarkets are nearby. Independent and discount food retailers (such as Aldi) are heavily used for local shopping, while supermarkets are often the destination for longer trips. Participant interviews confirmed this trend, with participants citing higher prices, poor food quality, and neighborhood safety as factors shaping their shopping decisions. 

Discussion: This data demonstrates that prevalent measures of healthy food access, such as those utilized by the USDA, fail to capture the complexity of individuals' food procurement decisions. More sophisticated measures, incorporating data on food shopping practices, would provide better guidance for how to improve food accessibility and dietary health.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Analyze usage patterns for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to identify spatial patterns in benefit utilization. Determine key factors that shape how and where low-income urban residents procure food. Evaluate how practice based metrics differ from existing approaches to determining food accessibility that emphasize proximity of food sources.

Keyword(s): Food Security, Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have received funding from several sources for studying issues related to food accessibility and urban development.
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.