Research has explored associations between diet, body weight, and the food environment; however, few studies have examined historical trends in food environments.
In the Framingham Heart Study Offspring (N = 3321) and Omni (N = 447) cohorts, we created food environment metrics in four Massachusetts towns utilizing geocoded residential, workplace, and food establishment addresses from 1971 to 2008. We created multilevel models adjusted for age, sex, education, and census tract poverty to examine trends in home, workplace, and commuting food environments.
Proximity to and density of supermarkets, fast-food, full service restaurants, convenience stores, and bakeries increased over time for residential, workplace, and commuting environments; exposure to grocery stores decreased. The greatest increase in access was for supermarkets, with residential distance to the closest supermarket 1406 m closer (95% CI 1303 m, 1508 m) by 2005-2008 than in 1971-1975. Although poorer census tracts had higher access to fast-food restaurants consistently across follow-up, this disparity dissipated over time, due to larger increases in proximity to fast-food in wealthier neighborhoods.
Access to most food establishment types increased over time, with similar trends across home, workplace, and commuter environments.