Proximity to Fast-Food Outlets and Supermarkets as Predictors of Fast-Food Dining Frequency

Jessica K. Athens, Dustin T. Duncan, Brian Elbel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background This study used cross-sectional data to test the independent relationship of proximity to chain fast-food outlets and proximity to full-service supermarkets on the frequency of mealtime dining at fast-food outlets in two major urban areas, using three approaches to define access. Interactions between presence of a supermarket and presence of fast-food outlets as predictors of fast-food dining were also tested. Methods Residential intersections for respondents in point-of-purchase and random-digit-dial telephone surveys of adults in Philadelphia, PA, and Baltimore, MD, were geocoded. The count of fast-food outlets and supermarkets within quarter-mile, half-mile, and 1-mile street network buffers around each respondent's intersection was calculated, as well as distance to the nearest fast-food outlet and supermarket. These variables were regressed on weekly fast-food dining frequency to determine whether proximity to fast food and supermarkets had independent and joint effects on fast-food dining. Results The effect of access to supermarkets and chain fast-food outlets varied by study population. Among telephone survey respondents, supermarket access was the only significant predictor of fast-food dining frequency. Point-of-purchase respondents were generally unaffected by proximity to either supermarkets or fast-food outlets. However, ≥1 fast-food outlet within a 1-mile buffer was an independent predictor of consuming more fast-food meals among point-of-purchase respondents. At the quarter-mile distance, ≥1 supermarket was predictive of fewer fast-food meals. Conclusions Supermarket access was associated with less fast-food dining among telephone respondents, whereas access to fast-food outlets were associated with more fast-food visits among survey respondents identified at point-of-purchase. This study adds to the existing literature on geographic determinants of fast-food dining behavior among urban adults in the general population and those who regularly consume fast food.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1266-1275
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Fast-food dining
  • Meal patterns
  • Proximity to food retail

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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