Change in an Urban Food Environment: Storefront Sources of Food/Drink Increasing Over Time and Not Limited to Food Stores and Restaurants

Sean C Lucan, Andrew R Maroko, Achint N Patel, Ilirjan Gjonbalaj, Courtney Abrams, Stephanie Rettig, Brian Elbel, Clyde B Schechter
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2018, 118 (11): 2128-2134

BACKGROUND: Local food environments include food stores (eg, supermarkets, grocery stores, bakeries) and restaurants. However, the extent to which other storefront businesses offer food/drink is not well described, nor is the extent to which food/drink availability through a full range of storefront businesses might change over time.

OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to assess food/drink availability from a full range of storefront businesses and the change over time and to consider implications for food-environment research.

DESIGN: Investigators compared direct observations from 2010 and 2015.

PARTICIPANTS/SETTING: Included were all storefront businesses offering foods/drinks on 153 street segments in the Bronx, NY.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcome was change between 2010 and 2015 as determined by matches between businesses. Matches could be strict (businesses with the same name on the same street segment in both years) or lenient (similar businesses on the same street segment in both years). Investigators categorized businesses as general grocers, specialty food stores, restaurants, or other storefront businesses (eg, barber shops/beauty salons, clothing outlets, hardware stores, laundromats, and newsstands).

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Investigators quantified change, specifically calculating how often businesses in 2015 were present in 2010 and vice versa.

RESULTS: Strict matches for businesses in 2015 present in 2010 ranged from 29% to 52%, depending on business category; lenient matches ranged from 43% to 72%. Strict matches for businesses in 2010 present in 2015 ranged from 34% to 63%; lenient matches ranged from 72% to 83%. In 2015 compared with 2010, on 22% more of the sampled street segments, 30% more businesses were offering food/drink: 66 vs 46 general grocers, 22 vs 19 specialty food stores, 99 vs 99 restaurants, 98 vs 56 other storefront businesses.

CONCLUSIONS: Over 5 years, an urban food environment changed substantially, even by lenient standards, particularly among "other storefront businesses" and in the direction of markedly greater food availability (more businesses offering food on more streets). Failure to consider a full range of food/drink sources and change in food/drink sources could result in erroneous food-environment conclusions.

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