To explore associations between dietary quality and access to different types of food outlets around both home and school in primary school-aged children.
Cross-sectional observational study.
Children (n 1173) in the Southampton Women’s Survey underwent dietary assessment at age 6 years by FFQ and a standardised diet quality score was calculated. An activity space around each child’s home and school was created using ArcGIS. Cross-sectional observational food outlet data were overlaid to derive four food environment measures: counts of supermarkets, healthy specialty stores (e.g. greengrocers), fast-food outlets and total number of outlets, and a relative measure representing healthy outlets (supermarkets and specialty stores) as a proportion of total retail and fast-food outlets.
In univariate multilevel linear regression analyses, better diet score was associated with exposure to greater number of healthy specialty stores (β=0·025 sd/store: 95 % CI 0·007, 0·044) and greater exposure to healthy outlets relative to all outlets in children’s activity spaces (β=0·068 sd/10 % increase in healthy outlets as a proportion of total outlets, 95 % CI 0·018, 0·117). After adjustment for mothers’ educational qualification and level of home neighbourhood deprivation, the relationship between diet and healthy specialty stores remained robust (P=0·002) while the relationship with the relative measure weakened (P=0·095). Greater exposure to supermarkets and fast-food outlets was associated with better diet only in the adjusted models (P=0·017 and P=0·014, respectively).
The results strengthen the argument for local authorities to increase the number of healthy food outlets to which young children are exposed.