Human Environments Analysis Lab (HEAL)


Examining community and consumer food environments for children: An urban-suburban-rural comparison in Southwestern Ontario

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Social Science & Medicine



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The aim of this study is to evaluate how retail food environments for children in the City of London and Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada, vary according to level of urbanicity and level of socioeconomic distress. Urbanicity in this study is defined as a neighbourhood's designation as urban, suburban, or rural. We assessed community food environments (e.g., the type, location, and accessibility of food outlets) using 800m and 1600m network buffers (school zones) around all public and private elementary schools, and we calculated and compared density of junk food opportunities (JFO) (e.g., fast food and full-service restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores) within each school zone in urban, suburban and rural settings. The study also assessed consumer food environments (e.g., the price, promotion, placement, and availability of healthy options and nutrition information) through restaurant children's menu audits using the Children's Menu Assessment tool. Results suggest JFO density is greater around elementary schools in areas with higher levels of socioeconomic distress and urbanicity, while urbanicity is also associated with greater use of branded marketing and inclusion of an unhealthy dessert on children's menus.

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