Rimkus L, Isgor Z, Ohri-Vachaspati P, Zenk SN, Powell LM, Barker DC, Chaloupka FJ. - 46729 N - J Acad Nutr Diet 2015 ; in press.

Disparities in the Availability and Price of Low-Fat and Higher-Fat Milk in US Food Stores by Community Characteristics

BACKGROUND: National surveillance data identify disparities in low-fat milk consumption by race/ethnicity and income. Some localized studies have shown disparities in access to low-fat milk by community characteristics.

OBJECTIVE: Our aim was to assess the availability and price of low-fat and higher-fat milk in food stores throughout the United States and examine associations with community characteristics.

DESIGN: We conducted a cross-sectional study involving observational data collection in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

PARTICIPANTS/SETTINGS: The study included 8,959 food stores in 468 communities where nationally representative samples of students attending traditional public middle and high schools resided.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We studied the availability and price of whole, 2%, 1%, and skim milk.

STATISTICAL ANALYSES PERFORMED: Multivariate logistic regression and ordinary least squares regression analyses were performed. Models included store type, race/ethnicity, median household income, urbanicity, US Census division, and year of data collection. RESULTS: Less than half of all stores carried 1% and skim milk, and more than three-quarters of stores carried whole and 2% milk. Regression results indicated that the odds of carrying any type of milk were 31% to 67% lower in stores in majority black and 26% to 45% lower in other/mixed race compared with majority white communities. The odds of carrying specifically low-fat milk were 50% to 58% lower in majority Hispanic compared with majority white communities, and 32% to 44% lower in low-income compared with high-income communities. Some significant differences in milk prices by community characteristics were observed in grocery and limited-service stores. On average, low-fat milk options were more expensive in grocery stores in majority black and rural and suburban communities compared with such stores in majority white and urban communities.

CONCLUSIONS: This is the first nationwide study to examine the availability and price of low-fat and higher-fat milk in food stores and show disparities in access by community characteristics. Policies and programs can play a role in increasing accessibility of low-fat milk in stores in nonwhite and low-income communities.