Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 139, Issue 2, pp 215–224 | Cite as

From Food Desert to Food Oasis: The Potential Influence of Food Retailers on Childhood Obesity Rates

  • Elizabeth HowlettEmail author
  • Cassandra Davis
  • Scot Burton


Few studies have examined the influence of the food environment on obesity rates among very young, low-income consumers. This research contributes to this growing literature by examining the relationship between modifications to the retail environment and obesity rates for low-income, preschool-aged children. Based on data combined from various secondary sources, this study finds that changes in the retail environment are significantly related to obesity rates. More specifically, the authors find a positive relationship between the number of convenience stores in the retail environment and obesity rates among low-income, preschool-aged children. Results also show that the percent change in grocery stores and supercenters and club stores in the retail environment is negatively related to the obesity rates of low-income, preschool-aged children [i.e., as grocery stores and supercenters/club stores increase (decrease), obesity decreases (increases)].Further, the percent change in supercenters and club stores mediates the positive relationship between participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and obesity rates.


Food environment Social responsibility Childhood obesity Low-income Food deserts 



The research reported in this article, and its preparation, were supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant No. 2011-68001-30014 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth Howlett
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cassandra Davis
    • 1
  • Scot Burton
    • 1
  1. 1.Sam M. Walton College of BusinessUniversity of ArkansasFayettevilleUSA

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