Exposure to highly palatable foods may increase eating in response to stress, but this behavioral response has not been examined in relation to the neighborhood food environment. This study examined whether the neighborhood food environment modified relationships between psychosocial stress and dietary behaviors. Probability-sample survey (n=460) and in-person food environment audit data were used. Dietary behaviors were measured using 17 snack food items and a single eating-out-of-home item. Chronic stress was derived from five subscales; major life events was a count of nine items. The neighborhood food environment was measured as availability of large grocery stores, small grocery stores, and convenience stores, as well as proportion of restaurants that were fast food. Two-level hierarchical regression models were estimated. Snack food intake was positively associated with convenience store availability and negatively associated with large grocery store availability. The measures of chronic stress and major life events were generally not associated with either dietary behavior overall, although Latinos were less likely to eat out at high levels of major life events than African Americans. Stress-neighborhood food environment interactions were not statistically significant. Important questions remain regarding the role of the neighborhood food environment in the stress-diet relationship that warrant further investigation.
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