Measuring the Food Environment: From Theory to Planning Practice


  • Leia Minaker University of Alberta
  • Pat Fisher Region of Waterloo Public Health
  • Kim Raine University of Alberta
  • Lawrence Frank University of British Columbia



Built Environment, Food Environment, Healthy Communities, Policy Assessment, Urban Planning


The retail food environment is becoming an increasingly important consideration in land use planning decisions. Although many municipal official (or comprehensive) plans call for improved food environments, there are no standard methods by which to assess the implementation of policies reflecting these priorities. Methods developed to assess policy enforcement should be feasible to implement by urban planners and developers, should show some correlation between food environments and residents' health or diet outcomes, and should consider a more nuanced view of food environments than solely focusing on food access. In this paper we review food environment characteristics, theories and conceptual models, and assessment methods with goal of presenting theoretical bases for the selection of food environment assessment tools by public health planners and other practitioners. We examine methods to assess food environments and discuss potential adaptations of the methods to suit the needs of urban planners. A case study of the region of Waterloo is presented to illuminate the potential of food environment assessments for healthy public policy enforcement. Finally we describe implications for public health and urban planning.


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Author Biographies

Leia Minaker, University of Alberta

Department of Public Health Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Pat Fisher, Region of Waterloo Public Health

Region of Waterloo Public Health, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Kim Raine, University of Alberta

Centre for Health Promotion Studies, School of Public Health, University of Alberta.

Lawrence Frank, University of British Columbia

School of Community and Regional Planning, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.



How to Cite

Minaker, L., Fisher, P., Raine, K., & Frank, L. (2011). Measuring the Food Environment: From Theory to Planning Practice. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 2(1), 65–82.



Food Systems Planning Call Papers