Determining the factors associated with the availability of healthy and unhealthy foods in the household may help in understanding the varying complexities that contribute to obesity among children and help design interventions to impact children's food consumption behaviors. This study examined factors that are associated with the availability of healthy and unhealthy foods in children's home food environments (HFE). Data was collected from a random-digit-dial telephone survey of 1708 households, with at least one child between 3-18 years of age, located in five low-income New Jersey cities. HFE was assessed based on responses to a set of six items that measured availability of specific healthy and unhealthy foods in the respondent's home. These items contributed to construction of three HFE scales used as dependent variables in these analyses: healthy HFE, unhealthy HFE, and a ratio of healthy to unhealthy foods in the HFE. Independent variables included household socio-demographics, parental perceptions of their own weight and diet health, frequency of family meals, proximity to food outlets, and perception of access to healthy foods in the neighborhood food environment. Significant differences were observed in the HFE by race and ethnicity, with Non-Hispanic black children having fewer healthy foods and Non-Hispanic white children having more unhealthy food items available at home. Parents who reported being overweight or obese had a healthier HFE and those perceiving their own eating as healthy had more healthy and less unhealthy foods in the household. Food-secure households had more unhealthy compared to healthy foods at home. Households located farther from a supermarket had a greater number of unhealthy food items and a lower healthy/unhealthy food availability ratio. Parental perception of better access to fruits and vegetables and low-fat foods was associated with availability of a greater number of healthy food items at home. Overall, the HFE varied by parental and demographic characteristics, parental perceptions about the food environment and the actual features of the built neighborhood food environment.
- Determinants of the home food environment