Food survey of Homewood, Hill District ready for public meetings
Share with others:
Rand Corp. researchers will present their current data and findings to residents of the Hill District and Homewood after an almost two-year study of the eating, shopping and health conditions of about 1,000 households.
The town hall meetings are to be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Hill House Association, 1835 Centre Ave., and from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA, 7140 Bennett St. They are open to the public.
The study, "Pittsburgh Hill/Homewood Research on Eating, Shopping and Health," was funded by a $2.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health that allowed for the hiring of data collectors from each neighborhood, said Tamara Dubowitz, a senior policy researcher at Rand who led the research for the study.
It had assistance from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research, the Hill House Association and Operation Better Block in Homewood.
The study was prepared in anticipation of the opening of a Shop 'n Save grocery store on Centre Avenue in the Hill. When the study was funded in 2010, the store was to have been built already but it was delayed by funding problems and now is expected to be open by next fall.
Once the store is open, researchers will begin the "after" portion of their data collection. The same people will be interviewed in the "after" portion.
This study will shed light on how people's health and choice of food are affected by features of the neighborhood where they live, Ms. Dubowitz said. This has been the most comprehensive study ever done to understand how people adapt to living in a food desert -- a neighborhood without access to shopping for healthy food options, Ms. Dubowitz said.
Homewood does not have a full-service grocery store, and the Shop 'n Save will be the first in the Hill in more than 30 years.
For the "before" part of the study, she said data collectors were able to interview one in every five households in the Hill and one in every six in Homewood.
"These were randomly selected. We asked questions about how satisfied people were with their neighborhood as a place to live, if they felt safe walking during the evening, how much of a problem they felt violence was, where a police presence did or did not make them feel safer, and we asked where people shopped for food, how they got there, how long it takes, how frequently they are able to shop."
The researchers audited all the places in both neighborhoods that sell any kind of food, such as convenience stores. "We wanted to understand what was available to residents, the quality and the price," she said.
At the preferred stores people reported shopping in, the researchers did similar audits.
The study has received an additional grant to extend the study to understand how land-use transitions in the Hill District -- from the new store to expected development on the Civic Arena footprint and mixed-income housing to replace Addison Terrace -- affect its residents and whether it changes transportation options and people's decision to walk more.
"The Hill is a changing neighborhood," she said, "and the new grocery is one that will anchor many more changes."
First Published November 26, 2012 12:00 am