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

The marketing of unhealthy foods and beverages towards children in Canada has become more prevalent in the past few decades and has translated into increased consumption of these foods. This has negative implications for children’s quality of health and diet, which may lead to health complications not only in their childhood but also persisting into their adulthood. Therefore, it is of importance to understand trends in accessibility of unhealthy food choices based on one’s environment and socioeconomic standing. Urbanicity – the categorization of a neighbourhood as being urban, suburban, or rural – varies around Southwestern Ontario and accordingly, so do retail food environments accessible to children based on the level of urbanicity.

Community food environments in the City of London and Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada, were established in the study as being areas proximal (800m and 1600m) to all public and private elementary schools and the density of junk food opportunities were calculated in each area. The aim of this study was 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.

This study evaluated children’s menus at restaurants in terms of price, availability of healthy food choices, and nutritional information being displayed and was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of HEAL researchers, including Catherine M. DuBreck (lead author), Dr. Richard C. Sadler, Dr. Godwin Arku, and Dr. Jason Gilliland (senior author and principal investigator). Research found that environments that were higher in urbanicity and socioeconomic distress correlated with having more junk food opportunities in proximity. Increased use of branded marketing and unhealthy dessert options on children’s menus were also correlated to areas of greater urbanicity.

“Examining community and consumer food environments for children: An urban-suburban-rural comparison in Southwestern Ontario” was published in Social Science & Medicine.

Read the full article here: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2018.05.004

Keywords: Children’s menus, Community food environment, Consumer food environment, Socioeconomic distress, Junk food

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