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Stephen Porth, Ph.D., Ernest Baskin, Ph.D.

An Empirical Analysis and Comparison of Food Landscapes, Access to Healthy Foods and Population Health in Philadelphia

The purpose of this research project is to investigate and characterize the food landscapes of 46 neighborhoods in Philadelphia in order to draw comparisons and conclusions about the relationships between food environment, access to healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, and public health outcomes. The food landscapes of each neighborhood will be assessed along several dimensions, including the density and types of food store formats (retail) and food service outlets (restaurants) and the availability of healthy foods. These food landscapes will then be compared to measures of public health outcomes by neighborhood. Access to healthy foods impacts a community and its food landscape. Prior studies done in other parts of the United States and around the world have examined some of these factors in isolation but have not considered all of them in combination nor have they accounted for the increasing importance of food service outlets on a community’s food landscape. This study addresses that gap by taking a more comprehensive look at the factors - supermarket accessibility, food store and food service availability and density, availability of healthy foods - in combination. In addition, this study takes the further step of assessing the relationships between these factors that define a community’s food landscape and population health data such as life expectancy, rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer. The IAJBS and CJBE call for papers for this conference focuses on the theme of “Serving the World through Innovative and Sustainable Business Models.” The call goes on to note that “Father General Arturo Sosa, SJ invites us to invigorate the Jesuit commitment to the transformation of the world in local, regional, and global scopes. Working collaboratively and in solidarity, Jesuit business schools can ‘together find a way to go beyond what we normally achieve in our local societies to have the best possible impact on our world regionally and globally.’” (Sosa, 2018). This paper contributes to the vision of Father Sosa, SJ by focusing on food landscapes of 46 neighborhoods in the sixth largest city in the United States, Philadelphia (population of 1.576 million). A recent report from Hunger Free America (2018) found that even as national rates of hunger in the U.S. declined, hunger in Philadelphia increased by 22% from 2015-2017. Over 18% of the population of the city lives in food insecure households and Philadelphia has the highest rate of poverty at 25.7% among the ten largest cities in the country. This research is part of an ongoing project that began in September of 2019. Much of the public health data needed for this study is already collected from publicly available sources. For example, for all 46 neighborhoods in the city, we have data on life expectancy for both men and women, and rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol (Source: “Close to Home: The Health of Philadelphia’s Neighborhoods Report, Summer 2019). We are in the process of collecting the data on food landscapes using Google mapping technologies.