comparing nutrition environments in bodegas and fast-food restaurants

Many small grocery stores or “bodegas” sell prepared or ready-to-eat items, filling a niche in the food environment similar to fast-food restaurants. However, little comparative information is available about the nutrition environments of bodegas and fast-food outlets. This study compared the nutrition environments of bodegas and national chain fast-food restaurants using a common audit instrument, the Nutrition Environment Measures Study in Restaurants (NEMS-R) protocol. The analytic sample included 109 bodegas and 107 fast-food restaurants located in New York City neighborhoods in the upper third and lower third of the census tract poverty rate distribution. Inter-rater reliability was evaluated in 102 food outlets, including 31 from the analytic sample and 71 from a supplementary convenience sample. The analysis compared scores on individual NEMS-R items, a total summary score, and subscores indicating healthy food availability, nutrition information, promotions of healthy or unhealthy eating, and price incentives for healthy eating, using t tests and χ2 statistics to evaluate differences by outlet type and neighborhood poverty. Fast-food restaurants were more likely to provide nutrition information, and bodegas scored higher on healthy food availability, promotions, and pricing. Bodegas and fast-food restaurants had similar NEMS-R total scores (bodegas 13.09, fast food 14.31; P=0.22). NEMS-R total scores were higher (indicating healthier environments) in low- than high-poverty neighborhoods among both bodegas (14.79 vs 11.54; P=0.01) and fast-food restaurants (16.27 vs 11.60; P<0.01). Results imply different policy measures to improve nutrition environments in the two types of food outlets.

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