Regional price differences and food consumption frequency among elementary school children.
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OBJECTIVE: Food prices may affect diet and weight gain among youth and lead to geographic disparities in obesity. This paper examines the association between regional prices and consumption frequency of fruit/vegetables and snack items among elementary school children in the USA.
STUDY DESIGN: Observational study using individual-level survey data of fifth-grade children (average age 11 years) and regional food prices based on store visits in 2004.
METHODS: Dependent variables are self-reported consumption frequency in fifth grade; primary explanatory variables are metropolitan area food prices relative to cost of living. Multivariate regression analysis.
RESULTS: Price variation across metropolitan areas exists, and lower real prices for vegetables and fruits predict significantly higher intake frequency. Higher dairy prices predict lower frequency of milk consumption, while higher meat prices predict increased milk consumption. Similar price effects were not found for fast food or soft drink consumption.
DISCUSSION: The geographic variation in food prices across the USA is sufficiently large to affect dietary patterns among youth for fruit, vegetables and milk. The price variation is either too small to affect children’s consumption frequency of fast food or soft drinks, or the consumption of these foods is less price sensitive.