ijerph-14-00915.pdf - International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health Article Pricing of Staple Foods at Supermarkets versus Small

ijerph-14-00915.pdf - International Journal of...

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International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health Article Pricing of Staple Foods at Supermarkets versus Small Food Stores Caitlin E. Caspi 1, *, Jennifer E. Pelletier 2 , Lisa J. Harnack 3 , Darin J. Erickson 3 , Kathleen Lenk 3 ID and Melissa N. Laska 3 1 Department of Family Medicine and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA 2 Office of Statewide Health Improvement Initiatives, Minnesota Department of Health, St Paul, MN 55164, USA; [email protected] 3 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA; [email protected] (L.J.H.); [email protected] (D.J.E.); [email protected] (K.L.); [email protected] (M.N.L.) * Correspondence: [email protected]; Tel.: +1-612-626-7074 Received: 20 June 2017; Accepted: 12 August 2017; Published: 15 August 2017 Abstract: Prices affect food purchase decisions, particularly in lower-income communities, where access to a range of food retailers (including supermarkets) is limited. The aim of this study was to examine differences in staple food pricing between small urban food stores and the closest supermarkets, as well as whether pricing differentials varied based on proximity between small stores and larger retailers. In 2014, prices were measured for 15 staple foods during store visits in 140 smaller stores (corner stores, gas-marts, dollar stores, and pharmacies) in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN and their closest supermarket. Mixed models controlling for store type were used to estimate the average price differential between: (a) smaller stores and supermarkets; (b) isolated smaller stores (>1 mile to closest supermarket) and non-isolated smaller stores; and (c) isolated smaller stores inside versus outside USDA-identified food deserts. On average, all items except white bread were 10–54% more expensive in smaller stores than in supermarkets ( p < 0.001). Prices were generally not significantly different in isolated stores compared with non-isolated stores for most items. Among isolated stores, there were no price differences inside versus outside food deserts. We conclude that smaller food stores have higher prices for most staple foods compared to their closest supermarket, regardless of proximity. More research is needed to examine staple food prices in different retail spaces. Keywords: corner stores; food affordability; food deserts; health disparities 1. Introduction For over a decade, researchers have noted persistent disparities in access to healthy food in urban areas of the U.S. [ 1 9 ]. In census tracts with high proportions of minority or low-income residents, supermarkets are scarce and convenience stores and fast-food outlets are abundant [ 7 ]. Beyond the presence of different types of stores, low-income neighborhoods have demonstrated lower fruit and vegetable availability [ 10 , 11 ] and lower overall healthy food availability [ 12 ]. A growing concern about the impact of ‘food deserts’ on dietary quality and obesity has sparked nationwide efforts to identify priority areas for food environment interventions. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture
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