Neighborhood impact on healthy food availability and pricing in food stores

J Community Health. 2010 Jun;35(3):315-20. doi: 10.1007/s10900-010-9224-y.


Availability and price of healthy foods in food stores has the potential to influence purchasing patterns, dietary intake, and weight status of individuals. This study examined whether demographic factors of the store neighborhood or store size have an impact on the availability and price of healthy foods in sample of grocery stores and supermarkets. The Nutrition Environment Measures Study-Store (NEMS-S) instrument, a standardized observational survey, was utilized to evaluate food stores (N = 42) in a multi-site (Vermont and Arkansas) study in 2008. Census data associated with store census tract (median household income and proportion African-American) were used to characterize store neighborhood and number of cash registers was used to quantify store size. Median household income was significantly associated with the NEMS healthy food availability score (r = 0.36, P < 0.05); neither racial composition (r = -0.23, P = 0.14) nor store size (r = 0.27, P = 0.09) were significantly related to the Availability score. Larger store size (r = 0.40, P < 0.01) was significantly associated with the NEMS-S Price scores, indicating more favorable prices for healthier items; neither racial composition nor median household income were significantly related to the Price score (P's > 0.05). Even among supermarkets, healthier foods are less available in certain neighborhoods, although, when available, the quality of healthier options did not differ, suggesting that targeting availability may offer promise for policy initiatives. Furthermore, increasing access to larger stores that can offer lower prices for healthier foods may provide another avenue for enhancing food environments to lower disease risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Arkansas
  • Censuses
  • Commerce / economics*
  • Data Collection / instrumentation
  • Food / economics
  • Food Supply / economics*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • Vermont