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Environment influences food access and resulting shopping and dietary behaviors among homeless Minnesotans living in food deserts


  • Chery Smith


  • Jamie Butterfass
  • Rickelle Richards



Qualitative and quantitative methods were used to investigate how shopping behaviors and environment influence dietary intake and weight status among homeless Minnesotans living in food deserts. Seven focus groups (n = 53) and a quantitative survey (n = 255), using the social cognitive theory as the theoretical framework, were conducted at two homeless shelters (S1 and S2) in the Twin Cities area. Heights, weights, and 24-h dietary recalls were also collected. Food stores within a five-block radius of the shelters were evaluated for the price and availability of foods and compared to the Thrifty Food Plan’s market basket prices (MBP). Results showed that almost 80% of the sample was overweight or obese, with women consuming less than the recommended level for the fruits, vegetables, and milk food groups and excess for the fats/oils/sweets food group. Focus groups and participant surveys indicated that the shelter infrastructure and surrounding community influenced the types of foods available, food store access, and the foods purchased and consumed. Participants relied on food assistance programs, including food stamps, to supplement their food supply; however, some felt the high food prices at neighboring stores limited food choice and that food stamps did not adequately cover food costs. Results from the food store survey found the majority of food prices exceeded Midwest or national MBP. To promote healthier dietary intake and weight status, community-based interventions and city planners should aim to increase access to food through improved food availability and food access within the shelter environment and surrounding community. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Suggested Citation

  • Chery Smith & Jamie Butterfass & Rickelle Richards, 2010. "Environment influences food access and resulting shopping and dietary behaviors among homeless Minnesotans living in food deserts," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 27(2), pages 141-161, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:agrhuv:v:27:y:2010:i:2:p:141-161
    DOI: 10.1007/s10460-009-9191-z

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Lin, Biing-Hwan & Morrison, Rosanna Mentzer, 2002. "Higher Fruit Consumption Linked With Lower Body Mass Index," Food Review: The Magazine of Food Economics, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, vol. 25(3).
    2. Amanda Whelan & Neil Wrigley & Daniel Warm & Elizabeth Cannings, 2002. "Life in a 'Food Desert'," Urban Studies, Urban Studies Journal Limited, vol. 39(11), pages 2083-2100, October.
    3. Nicole Eikenberry & Chery Smith, 2005. "Attitudes, beliefs, and prevalence of dumpster diving as a means to obtain food by Midwestern, low-income, urban dwellers," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 22(2), pages 187-202, June.
    4. Richards, Rickelle & Smith, Chery, 2007. "Environmental, parental, and personal influences on food choice, access, and overweight status among homeless children," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(8), pages 1572-1583, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Berta Schnettler & Marianela Denegri & Horacio Miranda & José Sepúlveda & Ligia Orellana & Galo Paiva & Klaus Grunert, 2015. "Family Support and Subjective Well-Being: An Exploratory Study of University Students in Southern Chile," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 122(3), pages 833-864, July.


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