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Am J Prev Med. 2010 Jan;38(1):70-3. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2009.09.030.

Mobile food vending and the after-school food environment.

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Department of Cardiology, Children's Hospital and Research Center, Oakland, California 94609, USA.



Low-income and minority children have higher rates of obesity and overweight. Greater understanding of their food access is important. Because of higher rates of walking to school in these populations, these children likely have greater exposure to the food environment immediately around their schools. Mobile food vendors are an understudied aspect of the food environment in U.S. urban areas.


This study aims to observe the after-school food environment in an urban area where mobile vending is known to occur in order to study the range of vendors encountered near schools and the items sold in the after-school period.


In the spring of 2008, the presence of mobile food vendors after school within (1/4) mile of nine public schools was assessed in a predominantly Latino district of Oakland CA. At six schools with regular presence of vendors, observations were made at mobile vendors documenting characteristics of transactions, consumers, and items.


During 37 observation-hours across 23 days, there were 1355 items sold to 1195 individuals. Fifty-six percent of the transactions involved children with no adults present. There was a wide range in foods sold, and although there were vendors selling low-nutrient, energy-dense foods, there were also vendors selling whole and processed (precut and bagged) fresh fruits and vegetables. Roughly 40% of these whole fruits and processed fruits and vegetables were consumed by children. On average, children each consumed $1.54 of foods per transaction.


Mobile food vendors in urban areas contribute to after-school snacking among children, and should be considered as a component of the school food environment.

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