Date of this Version
Preventive Medicine Reports 29 (2022) 101917
The study purpose was to determine associations between proximity to grocery stores and Early Care and Education programs’ (i.e., ECEs) classroom nutrition practices and barriers, by ECE context (Head Start, community-based childcare [CBC], and family child care homes [FCCHs]). A statewide cross-sectional survey was implemented in Oklahoma ECEs. Directors reported classroom nutrition practices with the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment tool, and barriers to implementation. Locations of 457 grocery stores statewide were determined by in-person audit. Geocoded ECEs were considered within a “low proximity” area if no grocery stores were available within a 0.25-mile radius for urban, or 10-mile radius for rural, ECEs. From November 2019 to February 2020, 54 Head Starts, 159 CBCs, and 160 FCCHs participated. 31.0 % were considered as low proximity. Head Starts demonstrated the highest classroom nutrition scores for mealtime practices, and nutrition education and policy. While proximity to grocery stores was not related to classroom nutrition practices for any ECE context (p > 0.05), FCCHs located within a low proximity area reported barriers to implementing those practices more often compared to FCCHs in an area within accessible proximity of grocery store. Thus, proximity to grocery stores was related to barriers in FCCHs only; those provider’s experiences and perceptions may be most susceptible to influence of the community nutrition environment, compared to other ECE contexts. Contrary to studies in residential areas and schools, nutrition environments were not related to nutrition practices in ECEs. ECEs may serve as protective micro-environments supporting health for children residing in nearby low-access communities.