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Small Improvements in an Urban Food Environment Resulted in No Changes in Diet Among Residents

Published Date February 01, 2021
Research Topic
Research Type
Authors Jill Clark

Abstract

Living in a low-income neighborhood with low access to healthy food retailers is associated with increased risk for chronic disease. The U.S. Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI) provides resources to support the development of infrastructure to improve neighborhood food environments. This natural experiment examined a HFFI funded food hub that was designed to be implemented by a community development corporation in an urban neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio. It was intended to increase access to affordable, local, and healthy foods; establish programs to increase social connections and support for healthy eating; and create job opportunities for residents. We used a quasi-experimental, longitudinal design to externally evaluate food hub implementation and its impact on changes to the built and social environment and dietary patterns among residents living in the intervention neighborhood (n = 179) versus those in a comparison (n = 150) neighborhood. Overall, many of the food hub components were not implemented fully, and dose and reach of the executed food hub components was low. There were statistically significant improvements in observed availability of healthy foods in the intervention neighborhood versus the comparison neighborhood. There were no changes over time in diet quality scores, total caloric intake, or fruit and vegetable intake in the intervention neighborhood. In conclusion, low dose implementation of a food hub led to small improvements in availability of healthy foods but not in dietary patterns. Findings highlight challenges to implementing a food hub in neighborhoods with low access to healthy food retailers.