Background: The local food environment plays a critical role in determining individual and community health. Some communities, defined as food swamps, have an abundance of unhealthy food options, such as convenience stores and fast food restaurants, that are more readily available and accessible than healthy food outlets, such as supermarkets. Lack of access to affordable, healthy food can contribute to community stress and deprivation, and can lead to diet-related chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.
Goal: The goal of this project is to compare healthy food availability between three different communities within Prince George’s County, Maryland: Bladensburg, Greenbelt, and Hyattsville.
Objectives: As part of this project, we have the following objectives: 1) Compare and contrast the presence of supermarkets and grocery stores across our study neighborhoods; 2) Compare and contrast the quality of food stores in and across our study neighborhoods; 3) Assess in disparities in the types of food stores and quality of food stores in and across our study neighborhoods in regards to race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES).
Approach: We visited all stores that sell food in Bladensburg, Greenbelt, and Hyattsville. We mapped each store and categorized by type: convenience, grocery store, supermarket, or other. We gave each store a food quality score based on the presence or absence of certain food items such as fresh produce and non-processed foods. In the next phase of the project, we plan to use US EPA’s EJSCREEN tool to assess differences in types of food stores and food quality scores in relation to race/ethnicity and SES at the census block group level.
Results: Based on preliminary results, we believe that: 1) Hyattsville will have more grocery stores and supermarkets than Bladensburg and Greenbelt per person and 2) Hyattsville will have higher rated stores compared to the other study neighborhoods.
Importance to public health: Our results will demonstrate a need for policymakers to address food injustice in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Limited availability and access to salutogenic food infrastructure such as supermarkets and grocery stores is a great challenge for many Americans, especially here in our own community.