Background: Food stores near schools are an important source of snacks for children. However, few studies have assessed availability of healthy snacks in these settings. The aim of this study was to assess availability of healthy snack foods and beverages in stores near schools and examine how availability of healthy items varied by poverty level of the school and rural-urban location. Methods: Food stores were selected based on their proximity to elementary/middle schools in three categories: high-income urban, low-income urban, and rural. Audits were conducted within the stores to assess the presence or absence of 48 items in single-serving sizes, including healthy beverages, healthy snacks, fresh fruits, and fresh vegetables. Results: Overall, availability of healthy snack foods and beverages was low in all stores. However, there was significant cross-site variability in availability of several snack and fruit items, with stores near high-income urban schools having higher availability, compared to stores near low-income urban and/or rural schools. Stores near rural schools generally had the lowest availability, although several fruits were found more often in rural stores than in urban stores. There were no significant differences in availability of healthy beverages and fresh vegetables across sites. Conclusions: Availability of healthy snack foods and beverages was limited in stores near schools, but these limitations were more severe in stores proximal to rural and low-income schools. Given that children frequent these stores to purchase snacks, efforts to increase the availability of healthy products, especially in stores near rural and low-income schools, should be a priority.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
- Nutrition and Dietetics