Retail food environments research in Canada: A scoping review

Leia M. Minaker, Alanna Shuh, Dana L. Olstad, Rachel Engler-Stringer, Jennifer L. Black, Catherine L. Mah


OBJECTIVES: The field of retail food environments research is relatively new in Canada. The objective of this scoping review is to provide an overview of retail food environments research conducted before July 2015 in Canada. Specifically, this review describes research foci and key findings, identifies knowledge gaps and suggests future directions for research.

METHODS: A search of published literature concerning Canadian investigations of retail food environment settings (food stores, restaurants) was conducted in July 2015 using PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, PsychInfo and ERIC. Studies published in English that reported qualitative or quantitative data on any aspect of the retail food environment were included, as were conceptual papers and commentaries.

SYNTHESIS: Eighty-eight studies were included in this review and suggest that the field of retail food environments research is rapidly expanding in Canada. While only 1 paper was published before 2005, 66 papers were published between 2010 and 2015. Canadian food environments research typically assessed either the socio-economic patterning of food environments (n = 28) or associations between retail food environments and diet, anthropometric or health outcomes (n = 33). Other papers profiled methodological research, qualitative studies, intervention research and critical commentaries (n = 27). Key gaps in the current literature include measurement inconsistency among studies and a lack of longitudinal and intervention studies.

CONCLUSION: Retail food environments are a growing topic of research, policy and program development in Canada. Consistent methods (where appropriate), longitudinal and intervention research, and close partnerships between researchers and key stakeholders would greatly advance the field of retail food environments research in Canada.


Food; environment; inequalities; Canada; review

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