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Abstract

Food retailers and restaurants are under scrutiny for their alleged effects on diets and obesity, although no clear evidence of a causal relationship exists. Furthermore, because no prior study controls for nutrition education and the dynamic nature of the underlying phenomena, existing estimates quantifying these relationships could be biased. Using state-level data for the continental U.S. we evaluate how the density of different food stores and per-capita expenditures on SNAP (nutrition) Education impact eating habits and (indirectly) adult obesity, controlling for endogeneity of store locations and consumption dynamics. Our results caution against using large-scale policies regulating the food environment and highlight the need to control for nutrition education and process dynamics to obtain unbiased estimates. Implications for the agribusiness sector are discussed.

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