Where do people purchase food? A novel approach to investigating food purchasing locations.Int J Health Geogr. 2017 03 07; 16(1):9.IJ
Studies exploring associations between food environments and food purchasing behaviours have been limited by the absence of data on where food purchases occur. Determining where food purchases occur relative to home and how these locations differ by individual, neighbourhood and trip characteristics is an important step to better understanding the association between food environments and food behaviours.
Conducted in Melbourne, Australia, this study recruited participants within sixteen neighbourhoods that were selected based on their socioeconomic characteristics and proximity to supermarkets. The survey material contained a short questionnaire on individual and household characteristics and a food purchasing diary. Participants were asked to record details related to all food purchases made over a 2-week period including food store address. Fifty-six participants recorded a total of 952 food purchases of which 893 were considered valid for analysis. Households and food purchase locations were geocoded and the network distance between these calculated. Linear mixed models were used to determine associations between individual, neighbourhood, and trip characteristics and distance to each food purchase location from home. Additional analysis was conducted limiting the outcome to: (a) purchase made when home was the prior origin (n. 484); and (b) purchases made within supermarkets (n. 317).
Food purchases occurred a median distance of 3.6 km (IQR 1.8, 7.2) from participants' homes. This distance was similar when home was reported as the origin (median 3.4 km; IQR 1.6, 6.4) whilst it was shorter for purchases made within supermarkets (median 2.8 km; IQR 1.6, 5.6). For all purchases, the reported food purchase location was further from home amongst the youngest age group (compared to the oldest age group), when workplace was the origin of the food purchase trip (compared to home), and on weekends (compared to weekdays). Differences were also observed by neighbourhood characteristics.
This study has demonstrated that many food purchases occur outside what is traditionally considered the residential neighbourhood food environment. To better understand the role of food environments on food purchasing behaviours, further work is needed to develop more appropriate food environment exposure measures.