Disparities in Perceived Availability of Healthful Foods, Dietary Behaviors, Diet Quality, and Obesity among Mothers from Low-Income Households: Additional Evidence in the Call for Broader Approaches to Obesity Prevention


Molitor, F.; Kehl, S.


Purpose: To examine racial/ethnic differences in dietary behaviors, diet quality, body mass, and the perceived availability of healthful foods in one's neighborhood among mothers from low-income California households. Methods: Cross-sectional telephone surveys of mothers from randomly sampled households with incomes ≤185% federal poverty level in 2018 and 2019 using a validated 24-h dietary recall assessment. Dietary outcomes were cups of fruits and vegetables, ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages, teaspoons of added sugars, and kilocalories consumed the previous day. Diet quality was assessed by calculating Health Eating Index-2015 scores. Supplemental survey items assessed mothers' weight and height. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated with a BMI of 30 or higher considered obese. Perceived availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy foods in general within one's neighborhood was recorded. Results: The analytic sample of 9200 mothers was 66.3% Latina, 17.3% white, 12.6% African American, and 3.8% Asian American, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander (AANHPI). African American mothers consumed the fewest cups of fruits and vegetables and the most teaspoons of added sugars, reported poor diet quality, and had the highest obesity rate, 54.7% versus 46.9% for Latinas, 39.9% for whites, and 23.5% for AANHPIs. Accordingly, a greater proportion of African Americans reported limited availability of fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy foods in general in their neighborhood. Conclusion: Findings are interpreted in light of recent calls for broader approaches to address health disparities, including strategies that focus on inequalities in racial/ethnic socioeconomic status and systemic racism. © Fred Molitor and Sarah Kehl 2023; Published by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. 2023.