Background: This article examines the relationship at the community level between individual dietary practice and the grocery store environment.
Methods: Individual dietary practice was measured in 12 communities using a telephone survey to obtain self-reported diet. A protocol was developed to measure two aspects of the grocery store environment in these same 12 communities: the relative availability of healthful (low-fat and high-fiber) products, and the amount of health-education information provided. Comparisons were made between individual and store-level measures at two levels of geographic aggregation: community (typically a county) and zip code within community (n = 34).
Results: We found positive and statistically significant correlations at both the community and the zip code level between the availability of healthful products in stores and the reported healthfulness of individual diets. Positive correlations were also found between measures of the amount of health-education material provided by stores and the healthfulness of individual diets, but these correlations did not reach statistical significance.
Conclusions: The results provide support for including measures of the grocery store environment as part of a community-level assessment of dietary behavior.