Race and the transformation of the food environment: Fast food, African Americans, and the color line, 1955-1995

Project Details


African Americans suffer from a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from a wide spectrum of conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer, and these disparities are not attributable solely to individual socioeconomic status or access to health care. Research has shown that social determinants are key factors in African American health and health disparities. Evidence is mounting for the health impact of neighborhood context, particularly with regard to the food environment. Several studies have documented that African American communities are disproportionately exposed to fast food, and other studies have shown that exposure to fast food is associated with greater risk of obesity and other chronic disease. What have been little studied are the complex historical drivers of racially patterned exposure to fast food. Research is needed to interrogate the forces that moved fast food from its historical origins of middle-class White suburban and rural communities to the predominantly Black central city. The proposed study seeks to advance research on social determinants of health by conducting historical analyses of the racial transformation of fast food in the U.S. from 1955 to 1995, focusing on large cities with large Black populations in the Midwest and Northeast. Drawing on archival resources from a number of collections, I will produce a book that will be of interest to scholars in public health, the social sciences and the humanities. In so doing, the proposed work will make an innovative contribution to understanding what puts African Americans at risk of health risks.
Effective start/end date9/1/178/31/20


  • National Institutes of Health: $50,000.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $50,000.00
  • National Institutes of Health: $50,000.00


  • Medicine(all)
  • Health Professions(all)

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