Date of Award

11-16-2009

Degree Type

Closed Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Richard Rothenberg, MD, MPH - Chair

Second Advisor

Ike Okosun, PhD

Abstract

Background: Access to food is an issue that not only deals with the safety of food that people consume, but also entails the availability and access of food in certain areas or neighborhoods. Eating behavior is highly complex and results from the interplay of multiple influences across different contexts. An ecological approach is useful to guide research efforts related to eating behavior because of the emphasis on multilevel links. Purpose: The purpose of this study is to analyze the access to, availability, and price of food in various food outlets of two zip codes in Atlanta, Georgia, which differ in socioeconomic status (SES) and racial background. It is hypothesized that low SES communities have a lower availability and higher price of healthy foods, and also have a higher number of small grocery stores, convenience stores and gas station food markets. Methodology: Primary data were collected for this study. Two zip codes were selected in the Metropolitan Atlanta area, 30318 and 30329. Frequencies and independent sample t-test for small sample sizes was used to determine whether the items of the market basket was significantly different for the two zip codes. Results: The Market Basket Survey showed significant disparities in areas with convenience stores. People who may have access to convenience stores before will pay more for healthy food items, if they are available at all. Fruit and vegetables were least likely to be available in convenience stores. In terms of small food stores, items were available in national brands, which are more costly than chain grocery stores or supermarkets. The hypothesis was rejected. Conclusion: Maintaining a nutritious diet is impossible if healthy foods are not available; and it is not realistic to expect food retailers to address the problem without community support and investment. Local Governments and communities should assess needs to improve access to healthy foods and develop action plans to address deficiencies identified in their assessments.

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