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Global Obesity Prevention Center

GOPC Funds Study of Healthy Food Availability in Small Stores

The Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) will fund a research project studying the outcomes of a proposed ordinance in Minneapolis, Minn., designed to improve the availability of healthy foods in small food stores.

Based at the University of Minnesota, the project will select 120 stores deemed most likely to struggle in complying with the new rules. Once granted permission by store owners or managers, researchers will offer in-person audits to assess food availability, quality, variety and price. Of these stores, six will be selected from Minneapolis and six from St. Paul, Minn., to act as survey locations. During the stores’ busiest hours, data collectors will survey willing customers under age 18, to examine purchases and record item names, types and sizes. These customers will also answer questions including demographic information, money spent on their food and beverage purchases, frequency of small store shopping, perceptions of healthy food availability, height, weight and zip code. Data will be collected both before the ordinance goes into effect and six months afterward. Researchers will compare the before and after data to assess changes in the food stores post-implementation, along with the nutritional quality of consumer purchases.

The Minnesota-based project is the 10th study funded by the GOPC’s Pilot Studies Core, which provides funding to researchers conducting systems research and/or natural experiments, in which outcomes are assessed in populations exposed to elements beyond the control of investigators. The program offers awards up to a maximum of $30,000.  Applications are reviewed twice per year and the process is open qualified applicants from around the world.   

“This study takes advantage of a ‘natural experiment’ in a major metropolitan area,” says Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, director of the GOPC’s Pilot Studies Core. “The results could help us better understand the potential benefits for preventing childhood obesity by changing the local food environment.”