Recent research on access to food among low-income populations in industrialised countries has begun to focus on neighbourhood food availability as a key determinant of dietary behaviour. This study examined the relationship between various measures of food store access and household fruit and vegetable use among participants in the Food Stamp Program, America's largest domestic food assistance programme.
A secondary data analysis was conducted using the 1996–97 National Food Stamp Program Survey. The survey employed a 1-week food inventory method, including two at-home interviews, to determine household food use. Separate linear regression models were developed to analyse fruit and vegetable use. Independent variables included distance to store, travel time to store, ownership of a car and difficulty of supermarket access. All models controlled for a full set of socio-economic variables.
A nationally representative sample of participants (n = 963) in the Food Stamp Program.
After controlling for confounding variables, easy access to supermarket shopping was associated with increased household use of fruits (84 grams per adult equivalent per day; 95% confidence interval 5, 162). Distance from home to food store was inversely associated with fruit use by households. Similar patterns were seen with vegetable use, though associations were not significant.
Environmental factors are importantly related to dietary choice in a nationally representative sample of low-income households, reinforcing the importance of including such factors in interventions that seek to effect dietary improvements.
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