Public Health Nutrition

Social, economic, political and environmental determinants

Healthy food purchasing among African American youth: associations with child gender, adult caregiver characteristics and the home food environment

Pamela J Surkana1 c1, Anastasia J Coutinhoa1, Karina Christiansena1, Lauren A Dennisuka1, Sonali Suratkara1, Erin Meada2, Sangita Sharmaa3 and Joel Gittelsohna1

a1 Social and Behavioral Interventions Program, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 North Wolfe Street, Room E5523, Baltimore, MD 21205-2179, USA

a2 Department of Health, Behavior, and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA

a3 Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada


Objective To examine how factors related to the home food environment and individual characteristics are associated with healthy food purchasing among low-income African American (AA) youth.

Subjects A total of 206 AA youth (ninety-one boys and 115 girls), aged 10–14 years, and their primary adult caregivers.

Setting Fourteen Baltimore recreation centres in low-income neighbourhoods.

Design Cross-sectional study. We collected information about food purchasing, the home food environment, sociodemographic and psychosocial factors drawn from social cognitive theory. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the factors associated with the frequency and proportion of healthy food purchases in all youth and stratified by gender. Low-fat or low-sugar foods were defined as healthy.

Results Youth purchased an average of 1·5 healthy foods (range = 0–15) in the week before the interview, comprising an average of 11·6 % (range = 0–80 %) of total food purchases. The most commonly purchased healthy foods included water and sunflower seeds/nuts. Healthier food-related behavioural intentions were associated with a higher frequency of healthy foods purchased (OR = 1·4, P < 0·05), which was stronger in girls (OR = 1·9, P < 0·01). Greater caregiver self-efficacy for healthy food purchasing/preparation was associated with increased frequency of healthy purchasing among girls (OR = 1·3, P < 0·05). Among girls, more frequent food preparation by a family member (OR = 6·6, P < 0·01) was associated with purchasing a higher proportion of healthy foods. No significant associations were observed for boys.

Conclusions Interventions focused on AA girls should emphasize increasing food-related behavioural intentions. For girls, associations between caregiver self-efficacy and home food preparation suggest the importance of the caregiver in healthy food purchasing.

(Received January 13 2010)

(Accepted July 09 2010)

(Online publication October 05 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email