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Public Health Nutr. 2018 Jun;21(9):1639-1648. doi: 10.1017/S1368980018000058. Epub 2018 Mar 15.

Availability, quality and price of produce in low-income neighbourhood food stores in California raise equity issues.

Author information

1
1Nutrition Policy Institute,University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources,2115 Milvia Street,Berkeley,CA 94704,USA.
2
2Contra Costa Health Services,Martinez,CA,USA.
3
3Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy - Institute at the Golden Gate,San Francisco,CA,USA.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To assess produce availability, quality and price in a large sample of food stores in low-income neighbourhoods in California.

DESIGN:

Cross-sectional statewide survey.

SETTING:

Between 2011 and 2015, local health departments assessed store type, WIC (Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children)/SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) participation, produce availability, quality and price of selected items in stores in low-income neighbourhoods. Secondary data provided reference chain supermarket produce prices matched by county and month. t Tests and ANOVA examined differences by store type; regression models examined factors associated with price.

SUBJECTS:

Large grocery stores (n 231), small markets (n 621) and convenience stores (n 622) in 225 neighbourhoods.

RESULTS:

Produce in most large groceries was rated high quality (97 % of fruits, 98 % of vegetables), but not in convenience stores (25 % fruits, 14 % vegetables). Small markets and convenience stores participating in WIC and/or SNAP had better produce availability, variety and quality than non-participating stores. Produce prices across store types were, on average, higher than reference prices from matched chain supermarkets (27 % higher in large groceries, 37 % higher in small markets, 102 % higher in convenience stores). Price was significantly inversely associated with produce variety, adjusting for quality, store type, and SNAP and WIC participation.

CONCLUSIONS:

The study finds that fresh produce is more expensive in low-income neighbourhoods and that convenience stores offer more expensive, poorer-quality produce than other stores. Variety is associated with price and most limited in convenience stores, suggesting more work is needed to determine how convenience stores can provide low-income consumers with access to affordable, high-quality produce. WIC and SNAP can contribute to the solution.

KEYWORDS:

equity; low-income; price; quality; Fruits and vegetables; Health disparities; Produce availability; Retail food stores; SNAP-Ed

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