The data gathered in the planning phase strongly suggested that the target areas' resource environment had gaps. The number of supermarkets and other grocery stores per population differed dramatically between the target areas and the contrast area, the state of California, and the United States (). Even fewer markets were present in the South Los Angeles target area, where the ratio was 6,824 persons per grocery store.
However, that phase did not provide information on the services offered by stores. The mini-grant inventory process filled that void. Inventories for 261 stores in the target areas (Inglewood, n = 28; North Long Beach, n = 75; South Los Angeles, n = 156), and 69 stores in the contrast area (331 total) were finished using the “Shopping List.” The target areas had a higher proportion of convenience stores and local markets than the contrast area, which had larger markets that were franchises of a regional or national chain (). Stores in both areas were rated similarly on cleanliness and rates of excellent/good service. However, within the target areas, Inglewood stores had a much higher rating of poor quality service (28.6% vs 5.6% and 5.8%, P < .001).
Shopping List Survey Findings (N = 330)
Fruits and vegetables, nonfat milk and low-fat snacks were less often available in the target areas as compared to stores in the contrast area. Meat was sold less commonly at the stores in the target areas than those in the contrast area (), with the lowest rate among markets in North Long Beach and the highest rate in Inglewood (18.7% vs 53.5%, P < .001; ).
The more detailed “Healthy Food Assessment” was conducted in 54 sites in the target areas and 17 sites in the contrast area. Again, markets in the target area were less likely than those in the contrast area to be part of a regional or national chain, but this time not in terms of size (). Among the target areas, South Los Angeles had the greatest proportion of smaller stores compared to Inglewood and North Long Beach (61.1% vs 37.5% vs 22.2%, P < .05). This result may have been impacted by the failure by another project to survey larger stores in the target areas. However, a check of the U.S. Economic Census found that the proportion of larger stores in our sample was only slightly smaller than that in the census. The level of service at markets in the target areas was less frequently reported to be excellent/good, although significant variation among the target areas was found, with the lowest rate of excellent/good service in South Los Angeles markets and the highest rate at Inglewood stores (18.9% vs 62.5%, P < .01). The reported level of cleanliness did not vary significantly ().
Healthy Food Assessment Characteristics of Markets (N = 71)
Less than three quarters of markets in the target areas sold fresh fruit or vegetables compared to over 90% of stores in the contrast area (70.4% vs 93.8%, P < .05; ). In addition to the lower frequency of these offerings in the target areas, the variety of produce was limited. The target areas had only about half of the selection of fruits and vegetables (13 types of fruits vs 26, P < .05; 21 types of vegetables vs 38, P < .05). The fruit and vegetables sections were also significantly less likely to be situated in the front of the store in the target areas (53% vs 87%, P < .05). Finally, inventories found the color, texture, consistency, damage, and cleanliness of apples, grapes, strawberries, lettuce, green beans, avocados, and celery to be inferior in target area markets compared to contrast area establishments. Conversely, the availability of meat, poultry and fish products was similar in all areas, including accessibility to meat options with a lower fat content ().
Availability of Fruits, Vegetables, and Meats (N = 71)
The survey was designed to make the results as comparable as possible by asking for specific items, such as quarts and half-gallons of milk. If the store did not have those sizes, surveyors were required to check “No” on the survey. In all areas, whole milk was easily obtainable. However, significant variation existed between the target and contrast areas in the availability of milk with lower fat content. Over four fifths of the markets in the contrast area had 2% fat milk compared to only half in the target area (P < .05; ). Additionally, over half of stores in the contrast area carried 1% fat milk compared to less than one third in the target areas (P < .05). Furthermore, while over 80% of markets in the contrast area had skim milk available, only 37% of target area stores carried it (P < 0.01). Specifically, only 11% of North Long Beach markets had skim milk for sale compared to 41% of South Los Angeles stores and 50% of Inglewood venues.
Availability of Dairy Products (N = 71)
Although there was no significant difference in availability of yogurt or regular cheese between the target and contrast areas, low-fat and nonfat cheese were more commonly found in the contrast area (P < .05; ). A trend for a lesser availability of soy milk did exist in the target versus contrast areas (22.2% vs 50.0%, P = .0555), as did a significant discrepancy in the availability of tofu in the target areas versus contrast area (11.1% vs 50.0%, P < .01).
Markets in the target areas were as likely as those in the contrast areas to sell white and brown rice, but contrast area markets were much more likely to sell whole grain pasta (1.9% vs 31.3%, P < .01). A variety of vegetable oils were available in the target and contrast areas. Some variation existed among the individual target areas. Over two thirds of markets in Inglewood carried canola oil compared to only 35% and 22% of stores in South Los Angeles and North Long Beach, respectively (P < .05). Low-fat as well as regular condiments such as mayonnaise and salad dressing were readily available in the target and contrast areas ().
Availability of Grains, Oils, Condiments, and Snack Foods (N = 71)
Snack foods such as crackers, potato chips and cookies were sold at nearly all stores surveyed (98.5%). Markets in the target areas were less likely than contrast area stores to sell low-fat potato chips ().
Contrast area stores were much more likely than those in the target areas to have sections designated as diabetic or which carried specific low-sugar or sugar-free food options (3.9% vs 33.3%, P < .01). Additionally, stores in the target areas were less likely to have a particular section devoted to low-salt food options (3.9% vs 26.7%, P < .05). However, no difference was found between the markets in the availability of printed dietary guidelines.