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What is the foodNEST?
 
 

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The Future of Food in Your Neighborhood Study (or "foodNEST") looks at how changes in the neighborhood food environment affect the health of a community. This study coincides with the opening of Hub 55, a multi-vendor food hub, in Cleveland, Ohio. Investigators from the Prevention Research Center for Healthy Neighborhoods (PRCHN) and the Center for Reducing Health Disparities at Case Western Reserve University will look at diet and health, food shopping habits, and food access among residents living in the St. Clair Superior neighborhood in Cleveland and the Southside neighborhood in Columbus, which closely resembles St. Clair Superior but does not yet have a food hub. The investigators are taking advantage of a rare opportunity to gather baseline data before Hub 55 opens. These data will be used to compare changes over time both within the targeted community and the comparison community.

What is the purpose of the foodNEST?

The primary goal of the study is to examine changes in diet among people living in the targeted neighborhoods over a two-year period to assess the impact of the food hub on the health of the local community. Beginning August 2015, the study will enroll 520 primary food shoppers in both communities who will complete three comprehensive 24-hour dietary recalls at baseline, 12-months, and 24-months, and a short survey to assess psychosocial and behavioral factors that influence food shopping and diet. Secondary goals of the study include assessments in both communities to examine if the introduction of Hub 55 results in changes to the broader food retail environment.

Where are the target communities?

The target communities are areas within the St. Clair Superior neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Southside neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio.

How were these target communities chosen?

These neighborhoods were identified as two areas in Ohio in the greatest need for more supermarkets and other fresh food retail venues according to the Food for Every Child Report, published in 2014 by the Food Trust.  They are also comparable in terms of demographics and in higher-than-average rates of obesity, hypertension, and diabetes.

What is a food hub?

Food hubs provide the multi-vendor variety of a farmers’ market with the hours and convenience of a grocery store.  Supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and a range of nonprofit organizations, there are now about 300 food hubs across the country. The foodNEST project aims to provide information and insight regarding how food hubs affect diet and health in urban areas defined as food deserts.

What is a food desert?

The USDA defines food deserts as “urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.” Sometimes the term “food desert” is misunderstood. For instance, there are two supermarkets at the southern periphery of the St. Clair Superior neighborhood. However, the majority of the people in the neighborhood live more than one-half mile from a supermarket, which fits the USDA’s access definition of a food desert. Food deserts are often contexts of imbalanced access rather than no access to healthy foods. In other words, they are “swampy” in less healthy foods like pop, chips, and candy with limited availability of fresh and healthy items. The USDA's food access maps can be found HERE

Who is participating in the study?

We are recruiting 520 community residents, half in Cleveland, half in Columbus, to participate in the study. At the study’s start, and the 12 and 24-month marks, study participants will give us extensive feedback on their diet, overall health, and perception of the food environment in their neighborhood.

How will the data be used?

Findings from this research will inform future healthy food retail interventions for urban neighborhoods across Ohio and nationally.

Who is funding foodNEST?

foodNEST is a rapid-response project that is funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) via the “Time-sensitive Obesity Policy and Program Evaluation” mechanism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Colleges and universities, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations are all eligible to apply in this competitive grant process.

Three years doesn’t seem like long enough to track the results of food choice on long-term health. What happens when the study ends?

Our team hopes to secure additional support to continue studying positive effects of food hubs on diet.

Who are the leaders and partners of the foodNEST?

Visit the Investigators, Study Team, Cleveland Research Team, Columbus Research Team, and Graduate Research Assistants pages to view individual team members and their roles.

Visit the Meet Our Partners page to learn more about the organizations who are partnering on the foodNEST.

Why is this study important?

There is anecdotal evidence that the food retail environment can affect the health of the neighboring community, but we don’t truly know if changes in the food environment are effective in improving public health. This is a rare opportunity to collect baseline data from the St. Clair Superior neighborhood before and after Hub55 opens, with a comparable neighborhood in Columbus to compare results. There are any number of government and non-profit programs to reduce obesity and chronic disease—what works best? The Future of Food in Your Neighborhood study hopes to help answer that question.

Who benefits from this study?

Local and state governments and non-profits that work to address obesity, diabetes, and hypertension can use findings from the foodNEST to help guide future programs and investments.

          foodNEST is employing a small number of individuals from each of the target neighborhoods as community researchers.

          Survey participants are compensated for their time and effort.

Where can I get more information about the foodNEST?

For more information, email foodnest@case.edu or call (216)-368-5745.