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Assessing the Food Environment of a Rural Community: Baseline Findings From the Heart of New Ulm Project, Minnesota, 2010–2011

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    Prev Chronic Dis
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    Introduction Changes in the food environment in the United States during the past few decades have contributed to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Improving the food environment may be an effective primary prevention strategy to address these rising disease rates. The purpose of this study was to assess the consumer food environment of a rural community with high rates of obesity and low levels of fruit and vegetable consumption. Findings were used to identify food environment intervention strategies to be implemented as part of a larger community-based heart disease prevention program. Methods We used the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Restaurants (NEMS-R) and Stores (NEMS-S) to assess 34 restaurants, 3 grocery stores, and 5 convenience stores in New Ulm, Minnesota. Results At least half of the restaurants offered nonfried vegetables and 100% fruit juice. Only 32% had at least 1 entrée or 1 main dish salad that met standards for “healthy.” Fewer than half (41%) had fruit available and under one-third offered reduced-size portions (29%) or whole-grain bread (26%). Grocery stores had more healthful items available, but findings were mixed on whether these items were made available at a lower price than less healthful items. Convenience stores were less likely to have fruits and vegetables and less likely to carry more healthful products (except milk) than grocery stores. Conclusion Baseline findings indicated opportunities to improve availability, quality, and price of foods to support more healthful eating. A community-wide food environment assessment can be used to strategically plan targeted interventions.
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    Prev Chronic Dis. 11.
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