Buying Local at Grocery Stores in Nova Scotia: Implications for Food Security and Healthy Eating

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Noseworthy, Beverly
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Background: Food security and fruit and vegetable consumption are two priority action areas of Healthy Eating Nova Scotia. Through many collaborative efforts this strategic plan aims to increase the availability of nutritious, locally produced foods in the province and, in particular, to make fruits and vegetables more accessible and affordable for lowincome households. In 2010 the Nova Scotia (NS) Food Security Network and Mount Saint Vincent University partnered with the NS Department of Health and Wellness and community organizations throughout the province to conduct a food costing survey in order to determine the cost of a basic nutritious diet. Purpose: This two-phase, mixed methods study used secondary data analysis and qualitative methods to: 1) determine the availability and relative cost of nutritious locally produced foods in grocery stores throughout NS; and 2) to examine, from the perspectives of key stakeholder groups, the implications of lo cal food availability and relative cost for food security and healthy eating in NS. Methods: In Phase I data collected as part of the 2010 NS Participatory Food Costing Project were entered into Microsoft® Office Excel® (Microsoft Corporation) spreadsheets and statistically analyzed to determine the availability and relative cost of locally produced foods from a stratified random sample of 46 grocery stores. In Phase II these findings were presented to members of agricultural awareness, health and nutrition organizations who participated in either focus group or individual interviews to reflect upon and interpret the research results in light of their mandates. A semi-structured interview protocol developed to guide the discussion provided a framework for qualitative data analysis. Audio recordings of the interviews were transcribed verbatim and content analysis was conducted with the assistance of the qualitative research software, NVivo (QSR International). Results: Analysis of the food costing results revealed that 20.7% of the National Nutritious Food Basket (NNFB) items in grocery stores were locally produced in the Maritime Provinces. Locally produced NNFB items were lowest in price in 75.4% of the grocery stores with local availability. When presented with these findings, focus group participants identified limited access to local foods and the perception that local is expensive as possible barriers to food security and healthy eating, and the lower relative cost of local foods and the perception that local foods are nutritious as enablers. Participants suggested that supporting direct delivery of local foods to grocery stores and investing in rural infrastructure would serve to strengthen local food availability. Conclusions and Implications: Consumers do not have access to a wide variety of nutritious, locally produced foods in grocery stores in Nova Scotia in June. Moreover, some local food items lack sufficient local identifying information. In contrast to perceptions that local foods cost more, in grocery stores in Nova Scotia NNFB items with the lowest relative price are usually locally produced. The findings highlight the need to increase the availability of nutritious, locally produced foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in grocery stores in order to promote food security and healthy eating. Implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations provided.
Food security , Nutrition , Healthy Living , Grocery Stores