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Shopping for food: lessons from a London borough

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Purpose ‐ This paper aims to measure access to food in an inner London borough. Design/methodology/approach ‐ There were six phases, which included designing food baskets, consultation with local residents and a shop survey. Recognising the cultural make-up of the borough food baskets and menus were developed for four key communities, namely: White British, Black Caribbean, Turkish, and Black African. Three areas were identified for the study and shopping hubs identified with a 500-metre radius from a central parade of shops. Findings ‐ The findings paint an intricate web of interactions ranging from availability in shops to accessibility and affordability being key issues for some groups. It was found that in the areas studied there was availability of some key healthy items, namely fresh fruit and vegetables, but other items such as: fresh meat and poultry, fish, lower fat dairy foods, high fibre pasta and brown rice were not available. Access was found to be defined, by local people, as more extensive than just physical distance to/from shops ‐ for many shopping was made more difficult by having to use taxis and inconvenient buses. Small shops were important in delivering healthy food options to communities in areas of deprivation and were judged to offer a better range and more appropriate food than the branches of the major supermarket chains. Research limitations/implications ‐ The importance of monitoring the impact of shops and shop closures on healthy food availability is emphased. From a policy perspective the findings suggest that approaches based on individual agency need to be balanced with upstream public health nutrition approaches in order to influence the options available. Originalty/value ‐ The paper is arguably the first to examine and dissect the issue of food availability and accessibility in the inner London borough in question, especially in the light of its proposed redevelopment for the London Olympics in 2012.
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Keywords: Communities; Consumer behaviour; England; Food products; Prices; Shopping

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-05-16

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