A tale of two food environments: Differences in food availability and food shopping behaviors between food insecure and food secure households
This research study was conducted to assess how neighborhood food environments (FE) impact households’ ability to purchase and consume a balanced diet. We conducted surveys with 449 food secure (FS) and 214 food insecure (FI) households to explore consumer decision-making and food access. We audited 90 food stores where participants shopped using an 87-item Thrifty Food Plan (TFP) list and a 55-item MyPlate list. The likelihood of purchasing an affordable healthy food basket was conditional upon the type of food store visited, dependent upon access, availability, and affordability. FI households were twice as likely to walk, four times more likely to use public transportation, and lived closest to convenience stores and partial markets. Twenty-six percents of participants living in FI households were not at all satisfied with their ability to easily access food, and over 27% of those households said it was not easy to find fresh fruits and vegetables, even though nutritional value was important or very important for 85.5% of FI households. While most people shopped at a supermarket, they also shopped at stores close to their home; for FI households, this included corner stores, convenience stores, and partial markets less likely to carry healthy food items and fresh produce.
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