Area-Level Measures of Deprivation Predict Food Patterns Among 7th Grade Students in Washington State
Owen, Russell Jared
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<bold>Introduction</bold>: Studies find that disparities exist between socioeconomic status and markers of diet quality among school-aged children. Only a few studies have examined food consumption at school and away from school for the specific purpose of uncovering the links between food patterns and the child's socioeconomic environment. The purpose of this cross-sectional study was to determine how socioeconomic environments contribute to the consumption of food items common used to assess diet quality in school-aged children. <bold>Methods</bold>: Area-level measures of deprivation were assigned to 64 middle schools (n=64) in Washington State using Singh Deprivation Index methodology. School level results from a Beverage and Snack Questionnaire completed by 9,319 7th grade students during the 2007-2008 school year were used to calculate school average frequency of consumption for snacks, sugar sweetened beverages, fruit, vegetables, 1% or nonfat fluid milk and 2% or regular fluid milk at school and away from school. Linear regression was used to determine the association between area-level measures of depression and frequency of consumption for food and beverages items.<bold>Results</bold>: Area-level deprivation showed a significant positive association with school average frequency of consumption for 1% or nonfat fluid milk and 2% or regular fluid milk at school, but no other food or beverage items. Away from school, area-level deprivation showed a significant positive association with school average frequency of consumption for snacks and sugar sweetened beverages. A significant inverse association was observed for area-level deprivation in relation to school average frequency of consumption for fruit, vegetables and 1% or nonfat milk. <bold>Conclusion</bold>: At home, students attending schools serving areas of greater deprivation consume food and beverage items putting them at nutritional risk at a greater average frequency than students attending schools serving areas of lesser deprivation. At school however, neighborhood deprivation does not influence the average frequency of consumption for nutritionally problematic foods. School food environments actually promote consumption of nutritionally protective foods among students attending schools of greater deprivation relative to their lesser deprived counterparts. This supports the importance for the availability of milk, fruit and vegetables in school meals in promoting the nutritional health of low-income students. Area-level measures of deprivation can be used to identify schools within communities serving students at the greatest risk for consuming food and beverage items commonly associated with poor diet quality.
- Epidemiology