Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, & Obesity Prevention: An assessment of the food environment around West Philadelphia schools

Melissa Sattler Gordon, MSPH, RD, LDN and Katera Moore, PhD, MES
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

APHA's 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo (Nov. 2 - Nov. 6)

Introduction: While supermarkets tend to offer a variety of healthy food options, including quality fruits and vegetables, many urban neighborhoods rely on smaller corner stores as food sources. Additionally, youth have access to corner stores nearby their schools that most frequently stock sugar-sweetened beverages, pre-packaged snacks, and little fresh produce. Our research examined the areas surrounding West Philadelphia schools to inform nutrition education and policy, system, environmental change initiatives.

Methods: The research team assessed areas around eight schools primarily in West Philadelphia using the Communities of Excellence in Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity Prevention. Data collectors utilized surveys on retail food availability, outdoor marketing, and mobile vending to assess a 1000 foot radius of selected schools. Results were compiled to analyze the retail food availability and food environment.

Results: Across the school areas, 35 stores were surveyed and none met the criteria for healthier retail. Nineteen stores (54%) accept WIC and 26 (74%) accept SNAP. While 22 stores (63%) of stores sold produce, only two (6%) sold a range of quality vegetables and none sold a range of quality fruits. One school had two mobile food vendors present at dismissal and two schools had a total of 13 outdoor marketing signs in the area.

Discussion: It is important to assess the food environment for both retail availability and other contributing factors when considering PSE initiatives and nutrition education in partner schools. Messages and programming need to be adjusted accordingly to reflect students’ lived experience in their food environment and community.

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs