Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: The Spatial Context of Food Shopping: Understanding How Local Food Retailer Access and Pricing Affect Household Behavior

Saturday, November 14, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Brickell North (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Scott Allard, University of Washington and Patricia Ruggles, University of Chicago
This paper explores the relationship between the food retail environment surrounding poor and near-poor households, household food shopping behavior, and household food security. Drawing on both restricted-use data and prepared measures available through FoodAPS, it will examine the spatial and non-spatial characteristics of the local food retail environment. Particular attention will be paid to how food pricing and product availability vary across types of food retailers within the local food retail environment. Empirical analyses will model how spatial access to food retailers and spatial variation in food pricing is associated with food purchases and household decisions about shopping venue among households within 300 percent of the Federal poverty line.

This study will create retail food access and food pricing measures to reflect the accessibility and affordability of retail food in the surrounding community. Access measures will take into account different commuting times and distance bands. Descriptive analyses will compare food resource access and food pricing across different population subgroups (such as race and poverty status) and geographic locations (for example, urban, suburban, or rural tract, or high or low poverty tract). This study will also estimate a series of multivariate models that explore factors associated with different household food outcomes such as type of retail food store most frequented; total weekly food expenditures; percent of weekly food purchases at supermarkets; percent of weekly food expenditures on fruits and vegetables; and household food security.

Future development of interventions to enhance food security will benefit from clearer evidence on the roles of local retail food availability and pricing in determining food purchases and food security. Improved understanding of how spatial context shapes food insecurity could translate into more efficient and effective allocation of public program dollars, private capital, and philanthropic resources.