Balance of Healthy vs. Less-healthy Foods in Convenience Stores Could Affect Choices in Certain Texas-Mexico Border Communities

August 30, 2012
Joseph Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H., RD

Joseph Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H., RD

(COLLEGE STATION, TX) — Altering the balance of healthy vs. less-healthy foods and beverages in convenience stories could significantly impact consumer choices in rural and underserved communities along the Texas-Mexico border, according to researchers at the Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) School of Rural Public Health.

A study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine emphasizes the importance of in-store marketing, especially product assortment, in affecting consumer choices and changes in the food environment.

“In reviewing observational survey data collected from 192 convenience stores, we confirmed a significantly greater variety of sugar beverages compared with non-sugar beverages, and fried chips compared with baked chips,” said Joseph R. Sharkey, Ph.D., M.P.H., RD, professor at the TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health, founding director of the Program for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities, and director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Texas Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network Collaborating Center.

“Healthier versions of milk, canned tuna, bread and deli-style packaged meat were displayed in 17-71 percent of convenience stores,” Dr. Sharkey said.

Researchers concluded the local convenience stores had an opportunity to influence consumer food choice and affect a change in dietary issues in the area through programs that alter the balance between healthier and less-healthy foods and beverages.

Study support was provided by the CDC Prevention Research Centers Program through the Core Research Project and Special Interest Project Nutrition and Obesity Policy Research and Evaluation Network (cooperative agreement No. 1U48DP001924). Additional TAMHSC-School of Rural Public Health contributors to the research project include Wesley R. Dean, Ph.D., and Courtney Nalty, M.S.P.H.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell