Improved Parental Dietary Quality Is Associated with Children's Dietary Intake Through the Home Environment

Published in: Obesity Science & Practice, Volume 3, Issue 1 March 2017. Pages 75-82. doi:10.1002/osp4.81

Posted on on May 16, 2017

by Karen Rocío Flórez, Andrea Richardson, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Robin L. Beckman, Christina Y. Huang, Laura M. Wagner, Tamara Dubowitz

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Research Question

  1. How does the introduction of a supermarket to a "food desert" neighborhood affect children's diet, relative to aspects of the home environment?


Improving access to supermarkets has been shown to improve some dietary outcomes, yet there is little evidence for such effects on children. Relatedly, there is a dearth of research assessing the impact of a structural change (i.e. supermarket in a former food desert) on the home environment and its relationship with children's diet.


Assess the relative impact of the home environment on children's diet after the introduction of a new supermarket in a food desert.


Among a randomly selected cohort of households living in a food desert, parental diet was assessed before and after the opening of a full-service supermarket. The home environment and children's intake of fruits and vegetables was measured at one point — after the store's opening. Structural equation models were used to estimate the pathways between changes in parental dietary quality at follow-up and children's dietary intake through the home environment.


Parental dietary improvement after the supermarket opened was associated with having a better home environment ([Beta] = 0.45, p = 0.001) and with healthier children's dietary intake ([Beta] = 0.46, p<0.001) through higher family nutrition and physical activity scores ([Beta] = 0.25, p = 0.02).


Policy solutions designed to improve diet among low-resource communities should take into account the importance of the home environment.

Key Findings

  • Dietary improvement among parents after a new supermarket opened in the food desert studied was associated with better family nutrition and physical activity.
  • Findings support prior research suggesting that home environment plays a notable role in dietary quality, especially for vulnerable children of color.
  • Interventions to encourage positive social norms and frame dietary improvement as a family issue are promising areas of future research.


Neighborhood-level policies or programs should consider the role of family nutrition and physical activity in their implementation efforts.

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