Disparities in healthy food zoning, farmers' market availability, and fruit and vegetable consumption among North Carolina residents

Stephanie Bell Jilcott Pitts, Mariel Leah Mayo Acheson, Rachel K Ward, Qiang Wu, Jared T McGuirt, Sally L Bullock, Mandee F Lancaster, Justin Raines, Alice S Ammerman
Archives of Public Health, Archives Belges de Santé Publique 2015, 73 (1): 35

BACKGROUND: Context and purpose of the study. To examine (1) associations between county-level zoning to support farmers' market placement and county-level farmers' market availability, rural/urban designation, percent African American residents, and percent of residents living below poverty and (2) individual-level associations between zoning to support farmers' markets; fruit and vegetable consumption and body mass index (BMI) among a random sample of residents of six North Carolina (NC) counties.

METHODS: Zoning ordinances were scored to indicate supportiveness for healthy food outlets. Number of farmers' markets (per capita) was obtained from the NC-Community Transformation Grant Project Fruit and Vegetable Outlet Inventory (2013). County-level census data on rural/urban status, percent African American, and percent poverty were obtained. For data on farmers' market shopping, fruit and vegetable consumption, and BMI, trained interviewers conducted a random digit dial telephone survey of residents of six NC counties (3 urban and 3 rural). Pearson correlation coefficients and multilevel linear regression models were used to examine county-level and individual-level associations between zoning supportiveness, farmers' market availability, and fruit and vegetable consumption and BMI.

RESULTS: At the county-level, healthier food zoning was greater in more urban areas and areas with less poverty. At the individual-level, self-reported fruit and vegetable consumption was associated with healthier food zoning.

CONCLUSIONS: Disparities in zoning to promote healthy eating should be further examined, and future studies should assess whether amending zoning ordinances will lead to greater availability of healthy foods and changes in dietary behavior and health outcomes.

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