Objective: Public health professionals continue to see the benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption on population health. While studies that evaluate the availability of produce are sparse in the medical literature, disparities in availability may explain the disproportional intake of produce for some people. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to evaluate the availability and variety of produce located in two racially and economically diverse urban neighbourhoods.
Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted in which 50% of the supermarkets, small grocery stores, delicatessens, and fruit and vegetable markets located in specific neighbourhoods were randomly sampled and surveyed between September 2004 and July 2005. Food stores were evaluated for the availability of 20 types of fresh fruits and 19 types of fresh vegetables, as well as their varieties and whether they were canned, frozen or previously prepared. 2000 US Census information was used to determine characteristics of the geo-coded census tracts where the food stores were located.
Setting: Brooklyn, New York.
Results: A supermarket was located in approximately every third census tract in predominantly white areas (prevalence = 0.33) and every fourth census tract in racially mixed areas (prevalence = 0.27). There were no supermarkets located in the predominantly black areas. With the exception of bananas, potatoes, okra and yucca, a lower proportion of predominantly black area stores carried fresh produce, while supermarkets carried the largest variety of produce types. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables were found in the majority of stores, whereas prepared and organic produce was limited to predominantly white area stores.
Conclusions: These data demonstrate that the availability and variety of fresh produce is associated with neighbourhood racial composition and may be a factor contributing to differences in intake among residents.