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Open Access Research article

Convenience stores are the key food environment influence on nutrients available from household food supplies in Texas Border Colonias

Joseph R Sharkey*, Wesley R Dean, Courtney C Nalty and Jin Xu

Author Affiliations

Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities, Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M Health Science Center, College Station, TX, USA

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:45  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-45

Published: 17 January 2013

Abstract

Background

Few studies have focused on the relationship between the retail food environment and household food supplies. This study examines spatial access to retail food stores, food shopping habits, and nutrients available in household food supplies among 50 Mexican-origin families residing in Texas border colonias.

Methods

The design was cross-sectional; data were collected in the home March to June 2010 by promotora-researchers. Ground-truthed methods enumerated traditional (supercenters, supermarkets, grocery stores), convenience (convenience stores and food marts), and non-traditional (dollar stores, discount stores) retail food stores. Spatial access was computed using the network distance from each participant’s residence to each food store. Data included survey data and two household food inventories (HFI) of the presence and amount of food items in the home. The Spanish language interviewer-administered survey included demographics, transportation access, food purchasing, food and nutrition assistance program participation, and the 18-item Core Food Security Module. Nutrition Data Systems for Research (NDS-R) was used to calculate HFI nutrients. Adult equivalent adjustment constants (AE), based on age and gender calorie needs, were calculated based on the age- and gender composition of each household and used to adjust HFI nutrients for household composition. Data were analyzed using bivariate analysis and linear regression models to determine the association of independent variables with the availability of each AE-adjusted nutrient.

Results

Regression models showed that households in which the child independently purchased food from a convenience store at least once a week had foods and beverages with increased amounts of total energy, total fat, and saturated fat. A greater distance to the nearest convenience store was associated with reduced amounts of total energy, vitamin D, total sugar, added sugar, total fat, and saturated fat. Participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) was associated with lower household levels of total energy, calcium, vitamin C, sodium, vitamin D, and saturated fat. Spatial access and utilization of supermarkets and dollar stores were not associated with nutrient availability.

Conclusions

Although household members frequently purchased food items from supermarkets or dollar stores, it was spatial access to and frequent utilization of convenience food stores that influenced the amount of nutrients present in Texas border colonia households. These findings also suggest that households which participate in NSLP have reduced AE-adjusted nutrients available in the home. The next step will target changes within convenience stores to improve in-store marketing of foods and beverages to children and adults.