Availability of Commonly Consumed and Culturally Specific Fruits and Vegetables in African-American and Latino Neighborhoods

 Although the importance of culture in shaping individual dietary behaviors is well-documented, cultural food preferences have received limited attention in research on the neighborhood food environment. The purpose of this study was to assess the availability of commonly consumed and culturally specific fruits and vegetables in retail food stores located in majority African-American and Latino neighborhoods in southwest Chicago, IL. A cross-sectional survey of 115 stores (15% grocery stores, 85% convenience/corner stores) in African-American neighborhoods and 110 stores (45% grocery stores, 55% convenience/corner stores) in Latino neighborhoods was conducted between May and August of 2006. χ2 tests were used to assess differences in the availability (presence/ absence) of commonly consumed (n=25) and culturally specific fruits and vegetables for African Americans (n=16 varieties) and Latinos (n=18 varieties). Stores located in neighborhoods in which the majority of residents were African American or Latino were more likely to carry fresh fruits and vegetables that were culturally relevant to the dominant group. For example, grocery stores located in Latino neighborhoods were more likely to carry chayote (82.0% vs 17.6%, P<0.05), whereas grocery stores located in African-American neighborhoods were more likely to carry black-eyed peas (52.9% vs 20%, P<0.05). Most stores, however, carried fewer than 50% of commonly consumed or culturally specific fruits and vegetables. Findings from this study highlight that limited availability of culturally specific as well as commonly consumed fruits and vegetables in the neighborhood may be a barrier to fruit and vegetable consumption among African Americans and Latinos.