Food availability and food access in rural agricultural communities: Use of mixed methods

Linda K. Ko, Cassandra Enzler, Cynthia K. Perry, Edgar Rodriguez, Norma Mariscal, Sandra Linde, Catherine Duggan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Hispanics bear some of the highest burden of the obesity epidemic and the disparities gap is bigger among Hispanics in rural communities. This mixed methods study examined the objective and subjective assessment of food availability and food access in four rural, agricultural, and predominantly Hispanic communities. Methods: In this convergent parallel mixed methods study, we used the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey (NEMS) of Food Stores and Restaurants to objectively assess 57 food stores and 69 restaurants in four rural agricultural communities in Washington State. To complement the objective assessment findings, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 32 community residents. The data were collected from 2013 to 2014. Frequencies and means were calculated for quantitative data and content analysis conducted for interview data. Results: Participants (n = 32) had a mean age of 35.6 (SD 6.2) years, were mostly women, uninsured, low income, and had less than a high school education. Grocery and convenience stores had low NEMS composite scores indicating low overall availability of food items, low quality, and high food prices. Composite scores for sit-down restaurants, fast casual restaurants, and fast-food restaurants were similarly low in all four towns indicating limited availability of healthier options. Semi-structured interviews revealed participants perceived high availability and accessibility of quality fresh produce. Most participants reported eating out regularly several times a week, frequenting restaurant chains that serve buffets or fast foods, and allowing children to make decisions regarding their own food choices. Conclusions: Community members' perception of food availability and food access may be different from the objective assessment of food environment. This information can be used to inform community-wide interventions to address food environment in these rural communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number634
JournalBMC public health
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 16 2018


  • Food environment
  • Hispanics
  • Mixed methods
  • Rural communities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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