Evidence of Geospatial and Socioeconomic Disparities in Access to Online Grocery Shopping for Fresh and Frozen Produce in North Carolina

Jared T. McGuirt, Stephanie B. Jilcott Pitts, Jeffrey D. Labban, Elizabeth T. Anderson Steeves, Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, Savanna Henry, Alison Gustafson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: Online grocery shopping is a rapidly growing food procurement approach in the United States with the potential to improve food access. Limited research has focused on understanding differential access to online grocery shopping that provides healthier items such as fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. Objective: The study aim was to understand geospatial, socioeconomic, and racial disparities in the availability of healthy online grocery shopping and online Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) acceptance in North Carolina. Design: A cross-sectional study was conducted during spring 2021. Participants/setting: A listing of grocery stores with online shopping was generated using a systematic search strategy. Stores were geocoded and spatially joined to relevant contextual (rural/urban [based on US Department of Agriculture Rural Urban Continuum codes]), broadband Internet availability, socioeconomic variables (ie, percent poverty and Social Vulnerability Index), and demographic variables (ie, percent racial minority) in geographic information systems software. Main outcome measures: Prevalence rate ratios (PRRs) of healthy online grocery shopping (availability of curbside pickup or home delivery of fresh and frozen produce), and online SNAP acceptance (ie, availability of online SNAP), at the census tract level (n = 2,162). Statistical analyses performed: PRRs for availability of healthy online grocery shopping and SNAP online acceptance at the census tract level (n = 2,162) were modeled using Poisson regression with robust standard errors. Results: This study found disparities in access to healthy online grocery shopping and SNAP online shopping availability in North Carolina. Healthy online shopping availability rates were higher in urban census tracts (PRR 1.68, 95% CI 1.47 to 1.92), areas with lower Social Vulnerability Index scores (PRR 0.99, 95% CI 0.98 to 0.99), higher Internet Availability Index scores (PRR 1.21, 95% CI 1.17 to 1.25), and lower percent poverty (PRR 0.94, 95% CI 0.90 to 0.98). SNAP online shopping availability rates were higher in urban census tracts (PRR 1.41, 95% CI 1.16 to 1.65), areas with higher Social Vulnerability Index scores (PRR 1.02, 95% CI 1.01 to 1.04), higher Internet Availability Index scores (PRR 1.15, 95% CI 1.10 to 1.20), and higher percent minority (PRR 1.02, 95% CI 1.0001 to 1.03). SNAP online shopping availability rates were lower in areas with higher percent poverty (PRR 0.90, 95% CI 0.85 to 0.95). Conclusions: This study found disparities in access to healthy online grocery shopping and SNAP online shopping for rural areas, and areas with higher poverty, and lower broadband Internet access in North Carolina. Further research is needed to identify effective strategies for addressing these disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2106-2114
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Volume122
Issue number11
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
FUNDING/SUPPORT This project was funded by University of North Carolina Greensboro internal funds.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Keywords

  • Disparities
  • Food environment
  • Geographic information systems
  • Online grocery shopping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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