Food environment metrics to support dietary needs: fruits and vegetables (FVs)


This presentation was delivered by Dr. Selena Ahmed, Assistant Professor of Sustainable Food Systems at Montana State University.

In this presentation, the food environment, defined as the context that encompasses the availability, affordability, convenience, and desirability of food, is recognized to influence consumer food choices and dietary patterns. However, there is a lack of generalizable metrics to evaluate the key food environment component of desirability.

This study presents three generalizable food environment metrics to assess fruit and vegetable (FV) desirability and availability including parameters of sensory desirability, diversity, and quality. These tools were developed and pilot tested by the Montana State University Food and Health Lab in rural and urban built food environments in the frontier state of Montana towards elucidating access gaps to desirable and diverse produce based on rurality of location.

Findings demonstrate that FVs procured from rural built food environments in the study area have significantly lower scores for parameters of sensory desirability, diversity, and quality compared to those in more urban sites. The presented metrics can be applied in diverse socio-ecological contexts to better evaluate, modify, and monitor food environments in complement to existing food environment tools.

Further research is being carried out to examine the relationship of findings from the presented food environment metrics to food choices, dietary quality, and health outcomes.

This presentation was part of at an event titled "Aligning the Food System to Meet Dietary Needs: Fruits and Vegetables," which took place on June 2-3, 2017, at the UC Davis Conference Center.