To examine the relationship between food security status, diet quality measured using Healthy Eating Index-2010 (HEI-2010) scores, demographics and the following factors: perceptions of healthy food availability, healthy eating identity and perceived control of healthy eating. A cross-sectional study in 2016-2017 using three 24-h dietary recalls and one psychosocial survey. Two urban communities in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, USA, with low access to healthy food retailers. Primary food shoppers living in the targeted geographic areas (N 450). Our results indicated that high school graduates had lower HEI-2010 scores compared with participants who had some college education or more (β = -2·77, P = 0·02). Participants receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits had lower HEI-2010 scores (β = -2·69, P = 0·03). Healthy eating identity was associated with higher HEI-2010 scores (β = 1·85, P = 0·004). Food security status moderated the relationship between perception of healthy food availability and HEI-2010 scores. Among participants with very low food security (VLFS), greater perceptions of healthy food availability were associated with higher HEI-2010 scores (β = 3·25, P = 0·03), compared with food secure participants. Only 14 % of VLFS participants used a personal vehicle as transportation to their primary food shopping store. Findings offer targets for future intervention development and evaluation to promote community nutrition. These targets include strategies to improve the value of SNAP benefits, promote access to quality education, increase transportation options to healthy food retailers and develop nutrition programming to promote healthy eating identity.

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