Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Race and food store availability in an inner-city neighbourhood

Maida P Galveza1a2 c1, Kimberly Morlanda1, Cherita Rainesa3, Jessica Kobila3, Jodi Siskinda1, James Godbolda1 and Barbara Brennera1

a1 Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, 1 Gustave L Levy Place Box 1512, New York, NY 10029, USA

a2 Department of Pediatrics, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA

a3 Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA


Background A growing body of research has shown that disparities in resources, including food stores, exist at the neighbourhood level and the greatest disparities are seen in minority neighbourhoods, the same neighbourhoods at increased risk of obesity and diabetes. Less is known about whether differences in availability of resources by African American or Latino race/ethnicity exist within a single minority community.

Objective The present study examined whether census blocks either 75% African American (AA) or 75% Latino (L) are associated with food store availability, as compared with racially mixed (RM) census blocks, in East Harlem, New York.

Design/methods A cross-sectional study utilising a walking survey of East Harlem was performed. Food stores were classified into: supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, specialty stores, full-service restaurants and fast-food stores.

Results One hundred and sixty-five East Harlem census blocks were examined; 17 were AA, 34 were L and 114 were RM. Of AA census blocks, 100% had neither supermarkets nor grocery stores. AA census blocks were less likely to have convenience stores (prevalence ratio (PR) = 0.25, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.07–0.86) compared with RM census blocks. In contrast, predominantly L census blocks were more likely to have convenience stores (PR = 1.8, 95% CI 1.20–2.70), specialty food stores (PR = 3.74, 95% CI 2.06–7.15), full-service restaurants (PR = 1.87, 95% CI 1.04–3.38) and fast-food restaurants (PR = 2.14, 95% CI 1.33–3.44) compared with RM census blocks.

Conclusions We found that inequities in food store availability exist by race/ethnicity in East Harlem, New York. This has implications for racial/ethnic differences in dietary quality, obesity and obesity-related disorders.

(Received February 07 2007)

(Accepted July 23 2007)


c1 Corresponding author: Email