The Availability and Price of Healthy Food in Seattle by Neighborhood Sociodemographic Characteristics

Prev Chronic Dis. 2022 Nov 23:19:E77. doi: 10.5888/pcd19.220035.


Introduction: Unequal access to healthy food in the local food retail environment contributes to diet quality disparities. We assessed whether in-store availability and prices of healthy foods differ by neighborhood-level income and racial and ethnic composition in a representative sample of food stores in Seattle, Washington.

Methods: We developed and validated an in-store survey tool and surveyed 134 stores. We measured availability and prices of 19 items. For each store, we calculated a healthy food availability score (range, 0-25), and mean prices within each category. Using census tract data, we identified the median household income and proportions of Black and Hispanic residents for each store's neighborhood and grouped them by tertiles of these neighborhood characteristics across Seattle census tracts. We used Wald tests to compare mean availability scores and prices between tertiles and applied postestimation weights to reflect store-type distributions within each tertile.

Results: Neighborhoods with lower income and a larger proportion of Black residents had lower healthy food availability scores compared with neighborhoods with higher income (8.06 [95% CI, 7.04-9.07] vs 12.40 [95% CI, 10.63-14.17], P < .001) and fewer Black residents (8.88 [95% CI, 7.79-9.98] vs 12.32 [95% CI, 10.51-14.14], P = .003). Availability did not differ by Hispanic population proportions. Mean prices of grains, eggs, and meat were lower in neighborhoods with larger proportions of Black residents.

Conclusion: We found systematic differences in healthy food availability based on neighborhood-level income and racial composition. In-store assessments of the food retail environment can inform local, tailored strategies to improve healthy food access.

MeSH terms

  • Commerce*
  • Food
  • Food Supply
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Residence Characteristics*