The effectiveness of initiatives to increase healthy food access may be affected by where people decide to shop. People with poor neighborhood access to large grocery stores develop shopping patterns that require traveling to other areas, and some people who do have neighborhood access also travel elsewhere for food shopping. We sought to gain an understanding of household food shopping patterns in a sample of Black women in terms of where they shopped and why.
All food shopping trips of 35 low- or middle/high-income black mothers or caregivers living with at least one child were identified from grocery shopping receipts collected over four consecutive weeks. Food shopping locations were mapped along with locations of participants’ homes and other places they visited during weekly routine travels (e.g. work, child’s school). Semi-structured individual interviews elicited narrative information about whether and how grocery shopping trips were linked to routine travels. Inductive content analysis was utilized to identify emergent themes from interviews. Themes were considered in relation to geospatial distances and travel patterns identified through mapping of participants’ shopping.
Participants shopped at an average of six different stores, traveling on average a total of 35 miles (sd = 41) (Euclidian distance) over the four weeks. The most frequented store was within a mile of home (57 %) or home or another place visited in the weekly routine for about 77 % of participants. Interview results emphasized the concept of convenience which referred to geographical proximity to the home or routine destinations and also to potential to save time because several stores were co-located or because the store layout was easy to navigate and familiar. Store selection also related to mode of transportation, pricing, and family preference for certain foods.
People have specific reasons for consistently shopping in areas outside of their neighborhood of residence. Incorporating considerations other than proximity (e.g. time saving while shopping, promoting less familiar foods, pricing) into food environment interventions may facilitate use of new stores by neighborhood residents and thereby increase the viability of these stores as health-promoting food environment interventions.