Unexpected businesses may improve food environments in urban neighborhoods
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
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
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.