Young Adult Eating and Food-Purchasing Patterns

Food Store Location and Residential Proximity


      Young adulthood is a critical age for weight gain, yet scant research has examined modifiable contextual influences on weight that could inform age-appropriate interventions.


      The aims of this research included describing where young adults eat and purchase food, including distance from home, and estimating the percentage of eating/purchasing locations contained within GIS-generated buffers traditionally used in research.


      Forty-eight participants (aged 18–23 years, n=27 women) represented diverse lifestyle groups. Participants logged characteristics of all eating/drinking occasions (including location) occurring over 7 days (n=1237) using PDAs. In addition, they recorded addresses for stores where they purchased food to bring home. Using GIS, estimates were made of distances between participants' homes and eating/purchasing locations. Data collection occurred in 2008–2009 and data analysis occurred in 2010.


      Among participants living independently or with family (n=36), 59.1% of eating occasions were at home. Away-from-home eating locations averaged 6.7 miles from home; food-shopping locations averaged 3.1 miles from home. Only 12% of away-from-home eating occasions fell within -mile residential buffers, versus 17% within 1 mile and 34% within 2 miles. In addition, 12%, 19%, and 58% of shopping trips fell within these buffers, respectively. Results were similar for participants residing in dormitories.


      Young adults often purchase and eat food outside of commonly used GIS-generated buffers around their homes. This suggests the need for a broader understanding of their food environments.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to American Journal of Preventive Medicine
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Nelson M.
        • Story M.
        • Larson N.
        • Neumark-Sztainer D.
        • Lytle L.
        Emerging adulthood and college-aged youth: An overlooked age for weight-related behavior change.
        Obesity. 2008; 16: 2205-2211
        • Larson N.I.
        • Story M.T.
        • Nelson M.C.
        Neighborhood environments: disparities in access to healthy foods in the U.S..
        Am J Prev Med. 2009; 36: 74-81
        • Lytle L.A.
        Measuring the food environment: state of the science.
        Am J Prev Med. 2009; 36: S134-S144
        • Cummins S.
        • Curtis S.
        • Diez-Roux A.V.
        • Macintyre S.
        Understanding and representing “place” in health research: a relational approach.
        Soc Sci Med. 2007; 65: 1825-1838
      1. The Lawrence Group Street Centerline and Address Ranges.
        • Forsyth A.
        • Lytle L.A.
        • Mishra N.
        • Noble P.
        • Van Riper D.
        • D'Sousa E.
        Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics + Cancer-IDEA project: environment, food, + youth: GIS protocols version 1.3, 1.2.
        • Larson N.I.
        • Nelson M.C.
        • Neumark-Sztainer D.
        • Story M.
        • Hannan P.J.
        Making time for meals: meal structure and associations with dietary intake in young adults.
        J Am Diet Assoc. 2009; 109: 72-79
        • Morland K.
        • Wing S.
        • Diez Roux A.
        The contextual effect of the local food environment on residents' diets: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study.
        Am J Public Health. 2002; 92: 1761-1767
        • Powell L.M.
        • Auld M.C.
        • Chaloupka F.J.
        • O'Malley P.M.
        • Johnston L.D.
        Associations between access to food stores and adolescent body mass index.
        Am J Prev Med. 2007; 33: S301-S307
        • Powell L.M.
        • Auld M.C.
        • Chaloupka F.J.
        • O'Malley P.M.
        • Johnston L.D.
        Access to fast food and food prices: relationship with fruit and vegetable consumption and overweight among adolescents.
        Adv Health Econ Health Serv Res. 2007; 17: 23-48
        • Maddock J.
        The relationship between obesity and the prevalence of fast food restaurants: state-level analysis.
        Am J Health Promot. 2004; 19: 137-143
        • Mehta N.K.
        • Chang V.W.
        Weight status and restaurant availability a multilevel analysis.
        Am J Prev Med. 2008; 34: 127-133
        • Auchincloss A.H.
        • Diez Roux A.V.
        • Brown D.G.
        • Erdmann C.A.
        • Bertoni A.G.
        Neighborhood resources for physical activity and healthy foods and their association with insulin resistance.
        Epidemiology. 2008; 19: 146-157
        • Bodor J.N.
        • Rose D.
        • Farley T.A.
        • Swalm C.
        • Scott S.K.
        Neighbourhood fruit and vegetable availability and consumption: the role of small food stores in an urban environment.
        Public Health Nutr. 2008; 11: 413-420
        • Laraia B.A.
        • Siega-Riz A.M.
        • Kaufman J.S.
        • Jones S.J.
        Proximity of supermarkets is positively associated with diet quality index for pregnancy.
        Prev Med. 2004; 39: 869-875
        • Jeffery R.W.
        • Baxter J.
        • McGuire M.
        • Linde J.
        Are fast food restaurants an environmental risk factor for obesity?.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2006; 3: 2
        • Moore L.V.
        • Diez Roux A.V.
        • Nettleton J.A.
        • Jacobs Jr, D.R.
        Associations of the local food environment with diet quality—a comparison of assessments based on surveys and geographic information systems: the multi-ethnic study of atherosclerosis.
        Am J Epidemiol. 2008; 167: 917-924
        • Jago R.
        • Baranowski T.
        • Baranowski J.C.
        • Cullen K.W.
        • Thompson D.
        Distance to food stores & adolescent male fruit and vegetable consumption: mediation effects.
        Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2007; 4: 35
        • Frumkin H.
        The measure of place.
        Am J Prev Med. 2006; 31: 530-532
        • Matthews S.
        The salience of neighborhood: some lessons from sociology.
        Am J Prev Med. 2008; 34: 257-259