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Public Health


Diet is an important modifiable risk factor for obesity and related chronic diseases which are disproportionately high among low-income and racial/ethnic minority populations. A growing field of research has documented inequalities by race and income in neighborhood access to foods recommended for a healthy diet. In October 2009, the revised food package for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) took effect, requiring certified stores to stock fresh produce, whole grain products and other foods consistent with national dietary recommendations. This project examined 1) differences in healthy food availability (HFA) between WIC-certified and non-certified corner stores and 2) the impact of federal changes to the WIC program on HFA in corner stores. Four rounds of food inventories were completed in 52 corner stores in Hartford, CT between January 2009 and January 2010 to measure the effect of the policy change. Analyses included chi-square, t-tests, and multivariate regression models. Participation of store owners as WIC vendors positively predicts HFA in Hartford’s corner stores. Compared to non-certified stores, WIC certified stores stocked a wider variety of revised food package foods, a higher proportion of reduced-fat milk, a greater variety of produce and were more likely to carry whole grain bread than non-WIC stores. The strength of WIC-certification as a positive predictor of HFA increased following the WIC policy changes. These findings have potential implications for intervention planning in Hartford and reflect the importance of including WIC as a variable in future food environment studies.

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