As part of my community nutrition rotation through WVU Extension I had the opportunity to become trained on conducting the Nutrition Environment Measures Study (NEMS). After spending about six hours online learning the background of the survey and how to use the tool I was ready to venture into the community. For our first time out we joined a Masters in Public Health student to test our skills. The MPH student has been conducting these for about two years and is very well versed when it comes to NEMS. We accompanied her on visits to large grocery stores, small convenience stores, and local restaurants.
This survey was created to be able to assess a wide-range of nutrition environment. A nutrition environment can be defined as places in a community where individuals can purchase food items. NEMS focuses on recording the type of food outlet, the availability of healthy food choices, nutrition information, and the marketing of different foods. The objectives of the original NEMS were to:
- Develop measures of nutrition environments and survey retail and food service outlets (stores and restaurants)
- Test the inter-rater and test-retest reliability of NEMS instruments
- Examine sampling and generalizability issues
When we went into a food establishment (restaurant or grocery store) we would go through a packet of question that assessed the size of the establishment, prices, options available for produce, milk, bread, cereal, meats, hot dogs, juice, soda and baked goods. These assessments can take over an hour to complete for the larger grocery stores because of their tedious nature and length.
I am glad I had the opportunity to partake in this data collection process and feel confident that I am able to conduct these surveys on my own in the weeks to come!