Children and teens who live in neighborhoods with many “combination stores” — stores that sell food as well as other items — are more likely to be overweight or obese than kids who live near supermarkets, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. And kids living near combination stores are even more likely to be obese if their families are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Researchers also found that the average child lived in a household that spent 6.3 percent of total food spending on sugary beverages.
The study — the first national examination of the relationship between neighborhood retail food access and obesity among children aged 2-18 — was published May 23 in the journal Obesity.
The researchers used data from the National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey on 3,748 children from across the U.S. from 2012-13. Noting that combination grocery stores such as drug stores, dollar stores, and general stores tend to sell a high proportion of unhealthy food options, the authors said the study results suggest that policies to improve healthy food availability in retail food outlets may improve eating habits or health outcomes for disadvantaged children and their families.