chapter  5
46 Pages

Local Food Environments and Dietary Intake

WithBarbara A. Laraia, Bethany Hendrickson, Yun T. Zhang

Humans do not innately know how to select a nutritious diet; we survived in evolution because nutritious foods were readily available for us to hunt or gather.

Marion Nestle (2007)

The increase in prevalence of diet-related diseases and conditions like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity in the United States over the last 30 years is now well documented and has made its way as a topic of mainstream concern by individuals, the media, and policy makers. Within these data is the troubling trend that low-income and certain minority groups experience these diet-related diseases at disproportionately higher rates. Data from the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) indicated that the adult age-adjusted prevalence of obesity was 35.7%. The overall prevalence of obesity did not appear to increase between 2007/2008 and 2009/2010; however, significant increases from 2007/2008 and higher obesity rates were found among Mexican-American (44.9%) and African-American (58.5%) women aged 20 years and older (Ogden et al. 2012). The multibillion-dollar diet and weight loss industry is but one example of the individual focus abating these conditions has taken (Havrankova 2012). Yet, despite this investment, only limited success has occurred in this arena suggesting that these individually focused interventions inadequately address the complex factors associated with diet and physical activity. This over-emphasis on the role of individual behaviors in diet and health ignores the complex contexts in which many of these behaviors take place, one of which is the local food environment. A growing number of academics, public health practitioners, policy makers, and community groups believe that our environment shapes who we are, how we live, and what we eat; however, we have not identified what aspect of the local food environment is most influential and to what extent our environment determines dietary intake and risk of chronic conditions.