Assessing children’s menus by neighbourhood socioeconomic characteristics.

With childhood obesity on the rise in Canada and the USA, it is important to understand the factors that play a role in shaping obesity outcomes. North American food environments often promote high-energy, high-fat, high-sugar foods and beverages, especially in low-income and highly socio-economically deprived neighbourhoods. However, compared to the USA, Canada sees slightly lower rates of obesity, potentially due to differences in urban planning policy shaping the food environment.

This study assesses restaurant children’s menus for content and nutritional quality; and to investigate the relationship between the restaurant consumer food environment for children and neighbourhood-level socio-economic characteristics within and between one Canadian city (London, ON) and one US city (Rochester, NY). This article was written by HEAL team members Catherine M DuBreck, Richard C Sadler, Godwin Arku, Jamie Seabrook, and Jason Gilliland.

Restaurant children’s menus were assessed, scored and compared using the Children’s Menu Assessment tool. Neighbourhood accessibility to restaurants was then quantified by calculating 800 m road-network buffers around the centroid of each city census block to create a Neighbourhood Restaurant Quality Index for Children (NRQI-C). The associations between NRQI-C and neighbourhood socioeconomic characteristics were examined using correlations and multiple regression analyses, and it was found that the average nutritional quality of children’s menus was greater in Rochester compared with London. However, the proportion of visible minorities had a positive effect on neighbourhood NRQI-C scores in London, whereas the reverse was true in Rochester.

These results suggest the presence of a socioeconomic disparity within Rochester, where children in more disadvantaged areas have poorer access to better nutritional quality restaurant choices. In London, results suggest an inverse relationship across the city where children in more disadvantaged areas have better access to better nutritional quality restaurant choices. Given these disparate results, research on restaurant nutritional quality for children requires additional consideration.

The authors would like to thank David DuBreck for providing assistance with menu collection in Rochester, as well the many student research associates who contributed to the menu collection phase in London. They would also like to acknowledge the city planning departments of both London and Rochester, as well as the Middlesex-London Health Unit for providing data, and the City of London Healthy Kids Community Challenge, the Children’s Health Foundation and the Children’s Health Research Institute for funding this project.

“A comparative analysis of the restaurant consumer food environment in Rochester (NY, USA) and London (ON, Canada): assessing children’s menus by neighbourhood socioeconomic characteristics” is published in Cambridge Core, the home of academic content from Cambridge University Press, including leading journals, research monographs, reference works and textbooks.


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Keywords: food environment, menus, neighborhood, socioeconomic status, child health, Canada, USA


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