Background: Little is known about how affordability of healthy food varies with community characteristics in rural settings. We examined how the cost of fresh fruit and vegetables varies with the economic and demographic characteristics in six rural counties of Texas. Methods. Ground-truthed data from the Brazos Valley Food Environment Project were used to identify all food stores in the rural region and the availability and lowest price of fresh whole fruit and vegetables in the food stores. Socioeconomic characteristics were extracted from the 2000 U.S. Census Summary Files 3 at the level of the census block group. We used an imputation strategy to calculate two types of price indices for both fresh fruit and fresh vegetables: a high variety and a basic index; and evaluated the relationship between neighborhood economic and demographic characteristics and affordability of fresh produce, using linear regression models. Results: The mean cost of meeting the USDA recommendation of fruit consumption from a high variety basket of fruit types in our sample of stores was just over $27.50 per week. Relying on the three most common fruits lowered the weekly expense to under $17.25 per week, a reduction of 37.6%. The effect of moving from a high variety to a low variety basket was much less when considering vegetable consumption: a 4.3% decline from $29.23 to $27.97 per week. Univariate regression analysis revealed that the cost of fresh produce is not associated with the racial/ethnic composition of the local community. However, multivariate regression showed that holding median income constant, stores in neighborhoods with higher percentages of Black residents paid more for fresh fruits and vegetables. The proportion of Hispanic residents was not associated with cost in either the univariate or multivariate analysis. Conclusion: This study extends prior work by examining the affordability of fresh fruit and vegetables from food stores in a large rural area; and how access to an affordable supply of fresh fruit and vegetables differs by neighborhood inequalities. The approach and findings of this study are relevant and have important research and policy implications for understanding access and availability of affordable, healthy foods.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported in part with funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities (# 5P20MD002295) and by Cooperative Agreement #1U48DP001924 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Prevention Research Centers Program through Core Research Project and Special Interest Project Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH and CDC. The authors thank Timothy Richards from the Morrison School of Management and Agribusiness at Arizona State University for providing the consumption shares for fresh fruits and vegetables in the Dallas metropolitan area from FreshLook Marketing. We also thank Brenda Bustillos for the original collection of fruit and vegetable data.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Medicine (miscellaneous)
- Nutrition and Dietetics