Objectives: We investigated associations between local food environment and neighborhood racial/ethnic and socioeconomic composition.
Methods: Poisson regression was used to examine the association of food stores and liquor stores with racial/ethnic composition and income in selected census tracts in North Carolina, Maryland, and New York.
Results: Predominantly minority and racially mixed neighborhoods had more than twice as many grocery stores as predominantly White neighborhoods (for predominantly Black tracts, adjusted stores per population ratio [SR]=2.7; 95% confidence interval [CI]=2.2, 3.2; and for mixed tracts, SR=2.2; 95% CI=1.9, 2.7) and half as many supermarkets (for predominantly Black tracts, SR=0.5; 95% CI=0.3, 0.7; and for mixed tracts, SR=0.7; 95% CI=0.5, 1.0, respectively). Low-income neighborhoods had 4 times as many grocery stores as the wealthiest neighborhoods (SR=4.3; 95% CI=3.6, 5.2) and half as many supermarkets (SR=0.5; 95% CI=0.3, 0.8). In general, poorer areas and non-White areas also tended to have fewer fruit and vegetable markets, bakeries, specialty stores, and natural food stores. Liquor stores were more common in poorer than in richer areas (SR=1.3; 95% CI=1.0, 1.6).
Conclusions: Local food environments vary substantially by neighborhood racial/ethnic and socioeconomic composition and may contribute to disparities in health.