Online Program

Unexpected businesses may improve food environments in urban neighborhoods

Monday, November 2, 2015 : 12:30 p.m. - 12:50 p.m.

Sean C. Lucan, MD, MPH, MS, Department of Family and Social Medicine, Albert EInstein College of Medicine | Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY

Jason Seitchick, Medical Student, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Dong Hum Yoon, Medical Student, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, NY
Luisa Sperry, College Student, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Andrew Maroko, PhD, Lehman College, Department of Health Sciences, City University of New York (CUNY), Bronx, NY
Introduction: Studies of neighborhood food environments have focused mostly on select stores and restaurants.  Neglected have been other kinds of businesses that might offer food and/or drink.  Investigators assessed all store-front businesses for food-and-beverage offerings in two urban areas.

Methods: Cross-sectional assessment in 15 census tracts in Area A (greater retail density, lesser vehicle ownership) and 17 census tracts in Area B (lesser retail density, greater vehicle ownership) in Bronx, NY.  Researchers assessed all store-front businesses (n=1019), for (a) foods: ‘healthier’ (fresh produce, whole grains, unsweetened nuts) and ‘less-healthy’ (e.g., refined sweets, salty snacks), and (b) beverages: ‘healthier’ (water, milk), ‘less-healthy’ (sodas, alcohol), and ‘other’ (diet drinks, juices).

Results: Area A had 2-fold more businesses and a 4-fold higher percentage of streets with any businesses than Area B (35.7% vs. 9.2%).  In both areas, ‘food businesses’ (e.g., supermarkets, restaurants) were about 1/2 as numerous as ‘other businesses’ (e.g., clothing stores, salons, dollar stores) and over 1/4 of these ‘other businesses’ offered some food or drink.  Of ‘other businesses’ selling food or drink, 36.1% offered some healthier items in Area A versus 16.6% in Area B; most of the difference was due to nuts (p = 0.049). 

Discussion: Neighborhood food environments include businesses beyond just food stores and restaurants. ‘Other businesses’ offer foods and beverages—even healthier items in some cases, especially in census tracts with lower vehicle ownership/higher retail density. Nuts (or perhaps other non-perishable healthy foods) might replace less-healthy items in diverse urban businesses to improve broader food environments.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate that neighborhood food environments are broader than just select food stores and restaurants (more than 1/4 of ‘other businesses’, like clothing stores, salons, and dollar stores, offer some food and/or drink) Describe how a substantial portion of ‘other businesses’ that sell food and/or drink already offer some healthier items like nuts, especially in census tracts with lower vehicle ownership/higher retail density Explain how food-and-drink offerings in ‘other businesses’ present a non-intuitive opportunity to improve neighborhood food environments

Keyword(s): Nutrition, Public Health Research

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am a public-health researcher, focusing on how different aspects of urban food environments may influence what people eat, and what the implications are for obesity and chronic diseases, particularly in low-income and minority communities.
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.