Food Availability en Route to School and Anthropometric Change in Urban Children
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This study examined food availability along children’s paths to and from elementary school, and associations with change in body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference over 1 year. Secondary data from 319 children aged 8–13 years from the “Multiple Opportunities to Reach Excellence” Project was used. Child anthropometry and demographic variables were obtained at baseline (2007) and 1 year follow-up. Food outlet locations (n = 1,410) were obtained from the Baltimore City Health Department and validated by ground-truthing. Secondary data on healthy food availability within select food stores in Baltimore City in 2007 were obtained via a validated food environment assessment measure, the Nutrition Environments Measures Study. Multilevel models were used to examine associations between availability of healthy food and number of various food outlets along paths to school and child anthropometric change over 1 year. Controlling for individual-, neighborhood-, and school-level characteristics, results indicated that higher healthy food availability within a 100 m buffer of paths to school was associated with 0.15 kg/m2 lower BMI gain (p = 0.015) and 0.47 cm smaller waist circumference gain (p = 0.037) over 1 year. Although prior research has illuminated the importance of healthy food choices within school and home environments, the current study suggests that exposure to the food environment along paths to school should be further explored in relation to child health outcomes.
KeywordsObesity Healthy food Weight Body weight changes Adiposity Abdominal Youth Food environment Anthropometry Overweight
We would like to thank Sara Bleich for her comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript. The authors also acknowledge the support and cooperation of the Baltimore City Public School System and our partner schools, students, parents, teachers, and administrators. Support and funding for the MORE Project comes from a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to M. Cooley (1R01 DA018318). This work was also funded in part by a grant from Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to K. Pollack.
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