Sources of Foods That Are Ready-to-Consume ('Grazing Environments') Versus Requiring Additional Preparation ('Grocery Environments'): Implications for Food-Environment Research and Community Health

Sean C Lucan, Andrew R Maroko, Jason L Seitchik, Don Yoon, Luisa E Sperry, Clyde B Schechter
Journal of Community Health 2018, 43 (5): 886-895
Local businesses that offer foods may create different 'grazing environments' (characterized by sources of ready-to-consume foods) and 'grocery environments' (characterized by source of foods for later preparation). Such environments may be relevant to different populations at different times and may vary by neighborhood. In neighborhoods within two demographically distinct areas of the Bronx, NY [Area A (higher-poverty, greater minority representation, lesser vehicle ownership) vs. Area B], researchers assessed all storefront businesses for food offerings. Food offerings could be ready-to-consume or require additional preparation. 'Healthful' offerings included fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts; 'less-healthful' offerings included 'refined sweets' and 'salty/fatty fare.' 'Food businesses' (those primarily focused on selling food) were distinguished from 'other businesses' (not focused primarily on food selling). Area A had a higher percentage of street segments on which foods were available (28.6% vs. 6.9% in Area B; difference 21.7% points [95% CI 17.0, 26.5]) and a higher percentage of businesses offering foods (46.9% vs. 41.7% in Area B; difference 5.2% points [95% CI - 2.0, 12.4]). 'Less-healthful' items predominated in both 'grazing environments' and overall environments ('grazing' plus 'grocery environments'; the environments researchers typically measure) in both Areas A and B. 'Other businesses' represented about 2/3 of all businesses and accounted for nearly 1/3 of all the businesses offering food in both geographic areas. The lower-income area with greater minority representation and less private transportation had more businesses offering foods on more streets. There was near-perfect overlap between 'grazing environments' and overall environments in both geographic areas. Future research should consider the extent of 'grazing' and 'grocery environments,' and when each might be most relevant to populations of interest.

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