Pulga (flea market) contributions to the retail food environment of colonias in the South Texas border region. Academic Article uri icon


  • Accounts of the retail food environment have been limited by research that focused on supermarkets, grocery stores, and restaurants as the principal food sources for consumers. Little is known about alternative retail food sources, especially in rural and underserved areas such as the colonias along the South Texas border with Mexico. Many colonias are located near pulgas (flea markets). This is the first study to examine this alternative food source for colonia residents. This study's purpose is to provide preliminary data on food availability in this unstudied element of the retail food environment. Five pulgas were identified for study by local informants. Two separate teams of two promotores (indigenous community health workers) conducted observations, wrote field notes, and surveyed vendors in each pulga. Traditional foods, prepared foods, and fresh fruits and vegetables were available in the observed pulgas. Traditional foods included staples, meal items, and snacks and sweets. Prepared foods were available in small stands run by independent operators, and each pulga had permanent restaurants that served prepared foods. A large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables were also available. An emphasis on supermarkets and grocery stores will provide an incomplete account of the retail food environment. Further studies should attempt to provide a more complete account by identifying alternative retail sources used by local residents. One such alternative retail food source, the pulga, provides a range of traditional food stuffs, prepared food items, and fruits and vegetables that complement conventionally studied aspects of the retail food environment.

published proceedings

  • J Am Diet Assoc

author list (cited authors)

  • Dean, W. R., Sharkey, J. R., & St John, J.

citation count

  • 18

complete list of authors

  • Dean, Wesley R||Sharkey, Joseph R||St John, Julie

publication date

  • May 2011