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Fruit and vegetable desirability is lower in more rural built food environments of Montana, USA using the Produce Desirability (ProDes) Tool

Author:
Ahmed, Selena, Shanks, CarmenByker, Smith, Teresa, Shanks, Justin
Source:
Food security 2018 v.10 no.1 pp. 169-182
ISSN:
1876-4517
Subject:
firmness, fruits, grocery stores, nutrition, odors, prices, vegetables, Montana
Abstract:
The main objective of this study is to present a food environment measure, the Produce Desirability (ProDes) Tool, to assess consumer desirability of fruits and vegetables (FVs) based on generalizable sensory characteristics that can be applied in diverse socio-ecological contexts. We implemented the ProDes Tool in rural and urban built food environments (grocery stores) in 11 counties in the frontier state of Montana, United States, towards elucidating access gaps to desirable produce based on rurality of location. Total ProDes scores were calculated by averaging the five sensory parameters of the tool (overall desirability, visual appeal, touch and firmness, aroma, and size) for individual and total FVs. We statistically analyzed the relationship of ProDes scores by FV type, rurality, Nutrition Environment Measurement Scores for Stores (NEMS-S), and price. Mean Total ProDes scores for all produce was 3.5 (SD = 0.7), or low to moderate, on a 7-point scale (0 to 6). Significant differences (p < 0.0001) in means of Total ProDes scores were found on the basis of rurality with FVs from the rural food environments having lower scores compared to the urban food environments. There was no significant relationship for Total ProDes Scores by NEMS-S Total Scores (p = 0.880; r = −0.019), NEMS-S Availability scores (p = 0.926; r = 0.012), NEMS-S Quality scores (p = 0.457; r = 0.095), and for the majority of NEMS-S acceptable ratings for individual produce. A significant negative relationship was found between price and the ProDes sensory parameter of touch and firmness (p < 0.0029) for total fruit. Findings support our overall hypothesis that FV desirability as measured by the ProDes Tool varies based on rurality of location of the built food environment in Montana. The lack of correlation of Total ProDes scores with NEMS-S scores rationalizes the need of the ProDes Tool to accompany existing food environment tools to more comprehensively characterize the food environment.