Adolescent obesity is a national public health problem, particularly among urban populations. Recent evidence has linked neighborhood food environments to health and nutrition status, with easier access to convenience stores being associated with increased risk for obesity. Little is known about the availability of healthy purchasing options within small, urban food stores, or the extent to which these factors are relevant to youth. The objective of this research was to characterize various features of the food environment within small convenience stores located nearby urban junior high and high schools. In-store audits were conducted in 63 stores located within 800 m of 36 urban Minnesota public secondary schools. Results indicated that a limited number of healthier beverages (i.e., water and 100% fruit juice) and snack options (i.e., nuts and pretzels) were available at most stores (≥85%). However, a wide range of healthy snack options were typically not available, with many specific items stocked in less than half of stores (e.g., low-fat yogurt in 27% of stores and low-fat granola bars in 43%). Overall, 51% of stores had fresh fruit and 49% had fresh vegetables. Few stores carried a range of healthier snack alternatives in single-serving packages. All stores had less healthful impulse purchase items available (e.g., candy) while only 46% carried healthier impulse items (e.g., fruit). Most stores (97%) had food/beverage advertising. Overall, convenience stores located in close proximity to secondary schools represent an important and understudied component of the youth food environment.
Obesity Urban food access Neighborhood food environment Corner store Convenience store