Characterizing Retail Food Environments in Peri-Urban Pakistan during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Bianca Carducci, Yaqub Wasan, Agha Shakeel, Amjad Hussain, Jo Anna B. Baxter, Arjumand Rizvi, Sajid B. Soofi, Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


(1) Background: To date, there are limited data in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) that collect, monitor, and evaluate food environments in standardized ways. The development of a pilot survey tool, tailored to LMICs and focused on retail food environments, is necessary for improving public health nutrition. (2) Methods: A novel survey tool was developed and piloted in a sample of village retail food environments (n = 224) in Matiari, Pakistan between October 2020 to April 2021. Villages were randomly selected, and food outlets were surveyed within a 500-m radius from each village center. Descriptive statistics (counts and percentages) were used to describe the characteristics of food outlets and the availability of food. To test whether there was a difference in characteristics or in the mean of number of healthy, unhealthy, and total food items available by village size, a χ2 test or one-way ANOVA was conducted, respectively. (3) Results: In total, 1484 food outlets were surveyed for food accessibility, availability, and promotion across small (n = 54), medium (n = 112), and large villages (n = 58). In small and medium-sized villages, mobile food vendors were the predominant food outlet type (47.8% and 45.1%, respectively), whereas in large villages, corner stores (36%) were more prominent. The mean number of total food items (p < 0.006) and unhealthy food items (p < 0.001) available in food outlets differed by village size. The proportion of food outlets with available fruits, meat and poultry, water, and sugar-sweetened beverages also differed by village size (p < 0.001). (4) Conclusions: This study informs the global evidence gap in the current understanding of food environments in various ethnically diverse and dynamic LMICs, and the developed methodology will be useful to other LMICs for measuring and monitoring the food environment, especially among vulnerable population groups. This work complements current national and provincial survey efforts in Pakistan.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8614
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number14
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • COVID-19
  • South Asia
  • food environments
  • nutrition transition


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