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To test the effect of a behavioural economics intervention in two food pantries on the nutritional quality of foods available at the pantries and the foods selected by adults visiting food pantries.
An intervention (SuperShelf) was implemented in two food pantries (Sites A and B), with two other pantries (Sites C and D) serving as a control for pantry outcomes. The intervention aimed to increase the amount and variety of healthy foods (supply), as well as the appeal of healthy foods (demand) using behavioural economics strategies. Assessments included baseline and 4-month follow-up client surveys, client cart inventories, pantry inventories and environmental assessments. A fidelity score (range 0–100) was assigned to each intervention pantry to measure the degree of implementation. A Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) score (range 0–100) was generated for each client cart and pantry.
Four Minnesota food pantries, USA.
Clients visiting intervention pantries before (n 71) and after (n 70) the intervention.
Fidelity scores differed by intervention site (Site A=82, Site B=51). At Site A, in adjusted models, client cart HEI-2010 scores increased on average by 11·8 points (P<0·0001), whereas there was no change at Site B. HEI-2010 pantry environment scores increased in intervention pantries (Site A=8 points, Site B=19 points) and decreased slightly in control pantries (Site C=−4 points, Site D=−3 points).
When implemented as intended, SuperShelf has the potential to improve the nutritional quality of foods available to and selected by pantry clients.
We examined differences in consumer-level characteristics and structural resources and capabilities of small and non-traditional food retailers (i.e. corner stores, gas-marts, pharmacies, dollar stores) by racial segregation of store neighbourhood and corporate status (corporate/franchise- v. independently owned).
Observational store assessments and manager surveys were used to examine availability-, affordability- and marketing-related characteristics experienced by consumers as well as store resources (e.g. access to distributors) and perceived capabilities for healthful changes (e.g. reduce pricing on healthy foods). Cross-sectional regression analyses of store and manager data based on neighbourhood segregation and store corporate status were conducted.
Small and non-traditional food stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, USA.
One hundred and thirty-nine stores; seventy-eight managers.
Several consumer- and structural-level differences occurred by corporate status, independent of residential segregation. Compared with independently owned stores, corporate/franchise-owned stores were more likely to: not offer fresh produce; when offered, receive produce via direct delivery and charge higher prices; promote unhealthier consumer purchases; and have managers that perceived greater difficulty in making healthful changes (P≤0·05). Only two significant differences were identified by residential racial segregation. Stores in predominantly people of colour communities (<30 % non-Hispanic White) had less availability of fresh fruit and less promotion of unhealthy impulse buys relative to stores in predominantly White communities (P≤0·05).
Corporate status appears to be a relevant determinant of the consumer-level food environment of small and non-traditional stores. Policies and interventions aimed at making these settings healthier may need to consider multiple social determinants to enable successful implementation.
Hunger relief agencies have a limited capacity to monitor the nutritional quality of their food. Validated measures of food environments, such as the Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010), are challenging to use due to their time intensity and requirement for precise nutrient information. A previous study used out-of-sample predictions to demonstrate that an alternative measure correlated well with the HEI-2010. The present study revised the Food Assortment Scoring Tool (FAST) to facilitate implementation and tested the tool’s performance in a real-world food pantry setting.
We developed a FAST measure with thirteen scored categories and thirty-one sub-categories. FAST scores were generated by sorting and weighing foods in categories, multiplying each category’s weight share by a healthfulness parameter and summing the categories (range 0–100). FAST was implemented by recording all food products moved over five days. Researchers collected FAST and HEI-2010 scores for food availability and foods selected by clients, to calculate correlations.
Five food pantries in greater Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, USA.
Food carts of sixty food pantry clients.
The thirteen-category FAST correlated well with the HEI-2010 in prediction models (r = 0·68). FAST scores averaged 61·5 for food products moved, 63·8 for availability and 62·5 for client carts. As implemented in the real world, FAST demonstrated good correlation with the HEI-2010 (r = 0·66).
The FAST is a flexible, valid tool to monitor the nutritional quality of food in pantries. Future studies are needed to test its use in monitoring improvements in food pantry nutritional quality over time.
Little is known about customer purchases of foods and beverages from small and non-traditional food retailers (i.e. corner stores, gas-marts, dollar stores and pharmacies). The present study aimed to: (i) describe customer characteristics, shopping frequency and reasons for shopping at small and non-traditional food retailers; and (ii) describe food/beverage purchases and their nutritional quality, including differences across store type.
Data were collected through customer intercept interviews. Nutritional quality of food/beverage purchases was analysed; a Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) score for purchases was created by aggregating participant purchases at each store.
Small and non-traditional food stores that were not WIC-authorized in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, USA.
Customers (n 661) from 105 food retailers.
Among participants, 29 % shopped at the store at least once daily; an additional 44 % shopped there at least once weekly. Most participants (74 %) cited convenient location as the primary draw to the store. Customers purchased a median of 2262 kJ (540 kcal), which varied by store type (P=0·04). The amount of added sugar far surpassed national dietary recommendations. At dollar stores, participants purchased a median of 5302 kJ (1266 kcal) for a median value of $US 2·89. Sugar-sweetened beverages were the most common purchase. The mean HEI-2010 score across all stores was 36·4.
Small and non-traditional food stores contribute to the urban food environment. Given the poor nutritional quality of purchases, findings support the need for interventions that address customer decision making in these stores.
Little is known about the practices for stocking and procuring healthy food in non-traditional food retailers (e.g. gas-marts, pharmacies). The present study aimed to: (i) compare availability of healthy food items across small food store types; and (ii) examine owner/manager perceptions and stocking practices for healthy food across store types.
Descriptive analyses were conducted among corner/small grocery stores, gas-marts, pharmacies and dollar stores. Data from store inventories were used to examine availability of twelve healthy food types and an overall healthy food supply score. Interviews with managers assessed stocking practices and profitability.
Small stores in Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, USA, not participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.
One hundred and nineteen small food retailers and seventy-one store managers.
Availability of specific items varied across store type. Only corner/small grocery stores commonly sold fresh vegetables (63 % v. 8 % of gas-marts, 0 % of dollar stores and 23 % of pharmacies). More than half of managers stocking produce relied on cash-and-carry practices to stock fresh fruit (53 %) and vegetables (55 %), instead of direct store delivery. Most healthy foods were perceived by managers to have at least average profitability.
Interventions to improve healthy food offerings in small stores should consider the diverse environments, stocking practices and supply mechanisms of small stores, particularly non-traditional food retailers. Improvements may require technical support, customer engagement and innovative distribution practices.
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