ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Food purchasing: where, when and with whom

Lukar Thornton

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 8 - Law Building, Room 100
Date: 2012-07-10 03:30 PM – 05:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-12-16


A growing body of work suggests the neighbourhoods exert an independent influence on the procurement of food through food store accessibility however this evidence remains inconsistent. Measures of neighbourhood food exposures vary greatly between studies and may not accurately reflect a person's true contextual exposure to the full range of food vendors throughout the course of their daily lives. To better understand environmental determinants of food purchasing behaviours, the next phase of research needs to move beyond place-based exposure measures towards people-based measures of exposure. In this instance, an individual's exposure to food stores will not only consider food stores nearby to where they live, but also take into account food stores nearby to where they work or socialise as well as individual factors related to their mobility (e.g. vehicle ownership, age). We are currently pilot testing the use of a food purchasing diary to determine the location of all food purchases made over a two-week period. These diaries also include data on the type of stores visited, the food items purchased, mode of travel, time of day, whether the purchaser was alone or with others, whether the food was for immediate consumption or consumption off-site (e.g. for home), and the amount spent. Demographic and socioeconomic data on the individuals are also reported. Individuals from two distinct neighbourhoods are currently being sampled and the food stores located in these areas have also been collected. Combined, these data allow us to better determine the contribution of the local neighbourhood environment to food purchasing decisions. Preliminary results have demonstrated the ability of the approach to detect noticeable differences across individuals in interactions with the food environment, with the median distance from their household location to stores where food was purchased ranging from 0.2km - 7.8km. After further data collection, analysis will be undertaken to explore patterns between an individual's interactions with the food environment and how this impacts on the healthiness of food purchasing patterns.