Corner Stores in an Urban Food Desert: An Assessment of Healthy Food Availability at Small Food Retailers in Northwest Atlanta Open Access

Dobbs-Cooper, Ashante (2015)

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The purpose of this study was to assess the availability of healthy foods sold at small food retail stores operating in Northwest Atlanta food deserts. This study also sought to evaluate if small food stores that participate in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) meet retail stocking requirements proposed in the 2014 U.S. Agricultural Act (also known as the U.S. Farm Bill). A food assessment was conducted to 1) identify and map the number and types of small food stores in the study area and 2) survey a sample of stores to determine whether they sold selected healthy foods. A total of 92 food retailers were mapped. Seventeen of these retailers were surveyed between August and September 2015 using a purposive sampling plan to reach saturation across various neighborhoods and store types. Thirteen of the 17 stores sampled are authorized SNAP retailers. Nearly half of stores surveyed did not sell any fresh fruits or vegetables (47.1%). Even fewer stores sold frozen fruits or vegetables (17.6%). Only two of the 17 stores (11.8%) sampled sold any healthy low-fat dairy item (e.g. low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, low-fat cheese). Nearly two-thirds of stores (64.7%) did not sell lean meat or protein. All stores surveyed sold some variety of snack foods. Of the 13 SNAP-authorized retailers, only one met the program's proposed stocking criteria and sold at least seven items in each of four basic food categories. Small food retailers are an important food access point for low-income residents living in Northwest Atlanta food deserts. It would be ideal if these stores could sell a variety of healthy foods. The feasibility of establishing a healthy corner store network in Northwest Atlanta to increase healthy food availability should be explored. In addition, since the majority of SNAP-authorized retailers sampled for this study failed to meet proposed stocking criteria, supporting expansion and/or renovation of these stores could not only help storeowners to increase their healthy food offerings for customers, but also maintain compliance with SNAP requirements.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary 1

Introduction 4

Background 6

Methods 12

Results 18

Discussion 29

Recommendations 32

References 36

Appendices 40

Appendix A: Definition of Store Terms 40

Appendix B: Letter to Corner Storeowners 41

Appendix C: Corner Store Survey Tool 42

Appendix D: USDA Retail Store Eligibility Criteria & Definition of Terms 46

Appendix E: Updates to retail stocking criteria per 2014 Agricultural Act 47

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