Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Health and Human Performance

Department or School/College

Department of Health and Human Performance

Committee Chair

Blakely Brown


University of Montana


Inadequate access to healthy food sources may contribute to less nutritious diets and an increased risk for chronic disease. Numerous studies on nutrition environments and food access have found disparities between low income neighborhoods and higher income neighborhoods in regards to access to supermarkets and healthier foods. The purpose of this study was to examine the retail food environment, access to food, and food security in Missoula, Montana in relation to the socioeconomic and health status of its residents.

This study was conducted in four neighborhoods based on the average median family income level of each neighborhood as defined by the 2000 U.S. Census. Each neighborhood fell into one of the following categories: very low income, low income, medium income, and high income. Neighborhood boundaries were defined using census tracts. Data were collected at supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores in the four selected neighborhoods. The retail food environment was assessed using the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey for Food Stores (NEMS-S). Food security, access to food, and health status were analyzed using a food store shopper survey which included the Six-item Short form U.S. Household Food Security Module and the SF-12v2 Health Survey. Data were collected in both September and February to account for any seasonal variability in food selection, food access, and food security.

The results from this study indicate that there is no relationship between the retail food environment in the four neighborhoods assessed and the food security or health status of food store shoppers within each neighborhood. However, there was a significant difference in the type of transportation food store shoppers used to get to the food store among the four neighborhoods. Food store shoppers in the very low income neighborhood were more likely to walk to the food store than food store shoppers in the other neighborhoods and food store shoppers in the very low income and medium income neighborhoods were more likely to ride their bike to the food store than food store shoppers in the low income and high income neighborhoods.



© Copyright 2009 Jennifer Rae Elliott