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Corner Store Purchases in a Low-Income Urban Community in NYC

While public health professionals have made incredible strides to raise awareness of health inequalities that exist in low-income multiracial communities, more work is needed to decrease the high rates of preventable illnesses. Low-income, multiracial communities have higher rates of obesity, likely due in part to lower access to full-service supermarkets and more access to small corner stores than other neighborhoods. Corner stores tend to stock an abundance of inexpensive and high-calorie, unhealthy food items that can increase the risk of obesity among children and adults. The popularity of corner stores among low-income residents can be attributed to proximity and convenience; as well as poor proximity to a fully-stocked supermarket.

Researchers from NYU School of Medicine partnered with Bronx Health REACH (BHR), a community based coalition led by the Institute for Family Health, to collect data from customers outside four bodegas located in the South and Central Bronx, NYC.  Surveys were administered in English and Spanish to adult bodega shoppers by research assistants. For their participation, the respondents were given round trip NYC Metro Cards.  A total of 779 surveys were collected and analyzed using a Chi squared test to measure differences between shoppers.

The results of the study showed that over half of the bodega shoppers sampled were females (59%) who identified as Hispanic/Latino (57%) or African American (35%). The majority (69%) of the full sample reported a high school diploma or less as the highest level of educational attainment. Over half (52%) of the full sample had a household income below $25,000; While 44% reported being currently unemployed. Lastly, 63% of the full sample was overweight or obese (based on self-reported height and weight), consistent with the overweight and obesity rates for the borough. Most participants (57%) purchased only one item. Unhealthy items were purchased most often, specifically sugar sweetened beverages; sweets (cookies, cakes, candy, and ice cream); and regular potato chips. Almost all shoppers purchased just one or two single-serving snack-type items, meant for immediate consumption.

The research results were presented to community stakeholders in a Bronx Health REACH coalition meeting. Results from this study are currently informing new food retail interventions in the South Bronx. Future research should also examine strategies to incentivize bodega owners to offer healthier options and tactics that encourage customers to select healthier foods.

This is a summary of an article of the same title which was originally published in the Journal of Community Health, April 2015.  The full article can be found in our Resource Center

Kiszko, K, Cantor, J, Abrams, C, Ruddock, C, Moltzen, K, Devia, C, McFarline, B, Singh, H, Elbel, B. (2015) Corner Store Purchases in a Low-Income Urban Community in NYC. Journal of Community Health, pp. 1-7. Published online at