Limited study of the availability of food in nontraditional food stores (Pharmacy and convenience stores) has left a gap in the understanding of the food environment in Arkansas. Recent corporate action among nontraditional food stores suggests that consumers are looking to these stores as sources of healthier food.
The question that guided this work asked, “Are there differences in food offerings among non-traditional food outlets, such as CVS and Walgreens, and how do those offerings compare to the offerings of convenience stores, in Arkansas?” Understanding differences among these food store types may be useful for subsequent efforts to improve equitable access to healthy food across Arkansas.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
This study used an observational design to assess offerings in non-traditional food outlets. The Nutrition Environment Measures Survey (NEMS) assessment tool was used to document and score the availability of food products in 54 stores in the northern half of Arkansas, including 27 pharmacy stores and 27 convenience stores within a 2.5 mile radius.
The NEMS tool gathered availability data across 13 measures, including: fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat products, frozen dinners, baked goods, bread, beverages, chips and snacks, and cereal.
Pharmacy stores had a higher mean availability score (x̅ = 19.0) than convenience stores (x̅ = 7.2). A paired sample t test indicated that the difference in mean availability score between the store types was not likely due to chance [t(26) = 16.01, P < .001].
These findings suggest that pharmacy stores offer a healthier supply of foods as compared to convenience stores. Nontraditional food stores may be important intervention sites as consumers look to these stores for an increasing proportion of their food purchases. Further study may help to uncover differences in rural and urban food supply in Arkansas, and may have positive consequences for better understanding best practices for increasing access to food across the state.