Objective: Prior studies have shown an association between fast-food restaurants and adolescent body size. Less is known about the influence of neighborhood food stores on a child's body size. We hypothesized that in the inner-city, minority community of East Harlem, New York, the presence of convenience stores and fast-food restaurants near a child's home is associated with increased risk for childhood obesity as measured by body mass index (BMI).
Design: Baseline data of 6- to 8-year-old East Harlem boys and girls (N=323) were used. Anthropometry (height and weight) was conducted with a standardized protocol. Food-store data were collected via a walking survey. Stores located within the same census block as the child's home address were identified by using ArcGIS 8.3. We computed age- and sex-specific BMI percentiles by using national norms of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using odds ratios, we estimated risk of a child's BMI percentile being in the top tertile based on number and types of food stores on their census blocks.
Results: Convenience stores were present in 55% of the surveyed blocks in which a study particpant lived and fast-food restaurants were present in 41%. Children (n=177) living on a block with 1 or more convenience stores (range, 1-6) were more likely to have a BMI percentile in the top tertile (odds ratio 1.90, 95% confidence interval, 1.15-3.15) compared with children having no convenience stores (n=146).
Conclusions: The presence of convenience stores near a child's residence was associated with a higher BMI percentile. This has potential implications for both child- and neighborhood-level childhood obesity interventions.