Where do pediatric caregivers shop? Can we encourage more local food shopping by expanding a produce prescription program to a new store? A map-based analysis of grocery shopping in Flint, Michigan.

For the attention of: Hospital systems with paediatric clinics, Alternative food systems non-profits in the food retailing space, City planning offices involved in food systems work,

The problem: Many people bypass local food stores to shop at major stores, foregoing proximate food access. It is also hard to increase healthy food consumption without access to an incentive program. We wanted to understand where caregivers were shopping, so we could determine the potential effectiveness of expanding a paediatric produce prescription program to a new store site in our study area of Flint, Michigan.

What we did and why: We used GIS to determine the average distance that caregivers were traveling to access groceries, then compared that to the shortest distance they could travel to reach groceries. We then examined whether a new cooperatively owned grocery store would be closer to these caregivers, as a first step in an advocacy campaign to expand our prescription program to that store.

What our study adds: Our study provides a methodology for measuring access to healthy foods, and illustrates how this methodology can be used to inform future site selection for an expanded pediatric produce prescription program. We hope that our study encourages other pediatric clinics, grocery stores, and related stakeholders to increase their participation in incentive programs to encourage healthy food consumption among children.

Implications for city policy and practice: Cities can use this approach and data to increase the presence of food systems in their planning documents and to conduct their own case studies of food access among key population sub-groups who may be at risk for food insecurity. This data can be used to zero in on ideal locations for built environment-based interventions—not only in food systems but with related social service needs.

For further information: Details on the Pediatric Produce Prescription Program at the MSU-Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative. 

Full research article: Nobody shops at the neighborhood store: leveraging a community’s pediatric fresh produce prescription program to inform future participating store redemption locations by Richard C. Sadler and Amy Saxe-Custack