Sources of Foods That Are Ready-to-Consume (‘Grazing Environments’) Versus Requiring Additional Preparation (‘Grocery Environments’): Implications for Food–Environment Research and Community Health
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Local businesses that offer foods may create different ‘grazing environments’ (characterized by sources of ready-to-consume foods) and ‘grocery environments’ (characterized by source of foods for later preparation). Such environments may be relevant to different populations at different times and may vary by neighborhood. In neighborhoods within two demographically distinct areas of the Bronx, NY [Area A (higher-poverty, greater minority representation, lesser vehicle ownership) vs. Area B], researchers assessed all storefront businesses for food offerings. Food offerings could be ready-to-consume or require additional preparation. ‘Healthful’ offerings included fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts; ‘less-healthful’ offerings included ‘refined sweets’ and ‘salty/fatty fare.’ ‘Food businesses’ (those primarily focused on selling food) were distinguished from ‘other businesses’ (not focused primarily on food selling). Area A had a higher percentage of street segments on which foods were available (28.6% vs. 6.9% in Area B; difference 21.7% points [95% CI 17.0, 26.5]) and a higher percentage of businesses offering foods (46.9% vs. 41.7% in Area B; difference 5.2% points [95% CI − 2.0, 12.4]). ‘Less-healthful’ items predominated in both ‘grazing environments’ and overall environments (‘grazing’ plus ‘grocery environments’; the environments researchers typically measure) in both Areas A and B. ‘Other businesses’ represented about 2/3 of all businesses and accounted for nearly 1/3 of all the businesses offering food in both geographic areas. The lower-income area with greater minority representation and less private transportation had more businesses offering foods on more streets. There was near-perfect overlap between ‘grazing environments’ and overall environments in both geographic areas. Future research should consider the extent of ‘grazing’ and ‘grocery environments,’ and when each might be most relevant to populations of interest.
KeywordsFood environment Community nutrition Public health Fruits Vegetables Whole grains Nuts Processed foods Diet Research
The authors would like to thank Geohaira Sosa for her help with data cleaning and analysis, and Aixin Chen, Charles Pan, and Aurora Jin, for reviewing drafts of the manuscript and for their insightful comments and contributions.
SCL conceived the study, performed the literature review, designed the data collection protocol, oversaw primary data collection, performed all analyses, and drafted the manuscript, including tables and figures. ARM assisted with analyses and data interpretation, created the map, and helped revise the manuscript. JLS, DHY, and LES performed primary data collection, assisted with data analysis and interpretation, and helped revise the manuscript. CBS oversaw and assisted with data analysis and helped revise the manuscript.
SCL is supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under award K23HD079606. The content of this manuscript is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. Student stipends through the Albert Einstein College of Medicine supported data collection. For data collection and management, the study used REDCap electronic data capture tools hosted through the Harold and Muriel Block Institute for Clinical and Translational Research at Einstein and Montefiore under grant UL1 TR001073.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
None of the other authors have any disclosures.
Research Involving Human Participants
This study did not involve human subjects.
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