Food preferences are usually presented as an individual preference. However research has proved that it is not only individual determinants that influence personal food choices, it is also collective determinants. The collective determinants will include the context in which the eating behavior is formed. The environment, the access to food choices, the financial state of the individual, the costs offered by the restaurants and more are involved in this choice making. The term environment usually encompasses a wide range of factors such as the interpersonal environment that includes the family, relationships and peers. It also involves the environment over which the individual might not have much awareness or control such as the economic or the physical environment. Food in the external environment, no longer fits into the personal determinant, it is now a commodity to be marketed and hence political and social factors also intersect with the economic factors.
In the external environment, the socio economic dynamics of interaction leads to expensive healthy foods becoming less accessible to the low income community (Power, 2005). There could be access restrictions for seniors (Payette & Shatenstein, 2005). Supermarkets that present less expensive and health food might be available only near major transportation routes and this leads urban areas to have less access to high quality food at economical prices. Physical access to food is also affected by low income (Raine, 2004).
In this context of the built physical environment and the social environment affecting the food choices of people, it is significant that the effects be studied. Research indicates that around 2 million of the people living in the United States are more than a mile away from a supermarket and hence have access restrictions to healthy food (US Department of Agriculture, 2009). A ‘food desert’ is hence created and the people living in the food deserts might opt for fast, easily accessible fast food 。