Environmental factors that impact the eating behaviors of low-income African American adolescents in Baltimore City

J Nutr Educ Behav. 2013 Nov-Dec;45(6):652-60. doi: 10.1016/j.jneb.2013.05.009. Epub 2013 Jul 31.


Objective: To understand environmental factors influencing the food-related habits of low-income urban African American adolescents.

Design: Qualitative research was conducted between February and April, 2010, using in-depth interviews, focus groups, and direct observation.

Setting: The study was conducted in low-income, predominantly African American neighborhoods of Baltimore City.

Participants: A total of 20 adolescents were interviewed in 18 in-depth interviews (n = 13) and 2 focus groups (n = 7). Participants were recruited from Baltimore City recreation centers and were eligible if they were African American and aged 10-16 years.

Phenomenon of interest: The food-related habits of low-income, African American, urban adolescents and reported perceptions of their food environments.

Analysis: Interviews were audio recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed for emerging themes.

Results: Six thematic categories emerged and were organized into 4 environmental contexts: the neighborhood context (accessibility of food and safety of neighborhood), the school context (school food environment), the family context (family health history, role modeling, and monitoring) and the peer context (peer behaviors).

Conclusions and implications: Future efforts to reduce the obesity epidemic among low-income African American adolescents should address the social environment of the family; however, positive behavior change may not be sustainable without neighborhood or school food environment modifications.

Keywords: African American; child; eating behavior; environment; overweight; qualitative research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data*
  • Baltimore / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Narration
  • Peer Group
  • Poverty*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Schools
  • Social Environment*
  • Urban Population