Children and teens who live in neighborhoods with many combination grocery/other stores—stores that sell food as well as other items—have higher odds of being overweight or obese than kids who live near fewer of these types of stores, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And kids with greater access to combination grocery/other stores have even higher odds of being overweight or obese if their families are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The study also found that the average child lived in a household that spent 6.3% of total food spending on sugary beverages.
The study—the first national examination of the relationship between comprehensive neighborhood retail food access and obesity among children aged 2-18—was published May 23, 2018 in the journal Obesity.
The researchers used data from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey on 3,748 children from across the U.S. from 2012-13.
Noting that combination grocery stores such as drug stores, dollar stores, and general stores tend to sell a high proportion of unhealthy food options, the authors said the study results suggest that policies to improve healthy food availability in retail food outlets may improve eating habits or health outcomes for disadvantaged children and their families.
Lead author of the study was Mary Gorski-Findling, PhD ’18. Other Harvard Chan School authors included Eric Rimm, professor in the Departments of Epidemiology and Nutrition, and senior author Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy.
This article was updated on July 11, 2018.