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To examine the feasibility of using social media to assess the consumer nutrition environment by comparing sentiment expressed in Yelp reviews with information obtained from a direct observation audit instrument for grocery stores.
Trained raters used the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey in Stores (NEMS-S) in 100 grocery stores from July 2015 to March 2016. Yelp reviews were available for sixty-nine of these stores and were retrieved in February 2017 using the Yelp Application Program Interface. A sentiment analysis was conducted to quantify the perceptions of the consumer nutrition environment in the review text. Pearson correlation coefficients (ρ) were used to compare NEMS-S scores with Yelp review text on food availability, quality, price and shopping experience.
Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Yelp reviews contained more comments about food availability and the overall shopping experience than food price and food quality. Negative sentiment about food prices in Yelp review text and the number of dollar signs on Yelp were positively correlated with observed food prices in stores (ρ=0·413 and 0·462, respectively). Stores with greater food availability were rated as more expensive on Yelp. Other aspects of the food store environment (e.g. overall quality and shopping experience) were captured only in Yelp.
While Yelp cannot replace in-person audits for collecting detailed information on the availability, quality and cost of specific food items, Yelp holds promise as a cost-effective means to gather information on the overall cost, quality and experience of food stores, which may be relevant for nutrition outcomes.
The goal of the present study was to use a methodology that accurately and reliably describes the availability, price and quality of healthy foods at both the store and community levels using the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey in Stores (NEMS-S), to propose a spatial methodology for integrating these store and community data into measures for defining objective food access.
Two hundred and sixty-five retail food stores in and within 2 miles (3·2 km) of Flint, Michigan, USA, were mapped using ArcGIS mapping software.
A survey based on the validated NEMS-S was conducted at each retail food store. Scores were assigned to each store based on a modified version of the NEMS-S scoring system and linked to the mapped locations of stores. Neighbourhood characteristics (race and socio-economic distress) were appended to each store. Finally, spatial and kernel density analyses were run on the mapped store scores to obtain healthy food density metrics.
Regression analyses revealed that neighbourhoods with higher socio-economic distress had significantly lower dairy sub-scores compared with their lower-distress counterparts (β coefficient=−1·3; P=0·04). Additionally, supermarkets were present only in neighbourhoods with <60 % African-American population and low socio-economic distress. Two areas in Flint had an overall NEMS-S score of 0.
By identifying areas with poor access to healthy foods via a validated metric, this research can be used help local government and organizations target interventions to high-need areas. Furthermore, the methodology used for the survey and the mapping exercise can be replicated in other cities to provide comparable results.