Measuring Food Environments

A Historical Perspective

This article examines the measurement and study of food environments in historical context. Since food environments are believed to be linked to obesity and chronic disease, a more robust understanding of past food environment research may prove relevant for current research efforts.

The authors based their findings on review articles, government agency Web sites, and peer-reviewed articles.

Key Findings:

  • The three sources of data most commonly used in past research on food environments were from government, industry and research.
  • Important government sources of information included the Department of Agriculture, the School Health Policies and Programs Study, and the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment Study.
  • Industry data about sales, pricing, and availability of food was provided by the NPD Group, Nielsen Retail Measurement, Nielsen Media Research, and other media-tracking organizations.
  • Research on food environments has examined food in schools, at workplaces, and in the community.

A better understanding of the body of research around food environments will provide a strong base for current research in this area.