Evaluating Consumer Preferences for Healthy Eating from Community Kitchens in Low-Income Urban Areas

A Discrete Choice Experiment of Comedores Populares in Peru

Published in: Social Science and Medicine, v. 140, Sep. 2015, p. 1-8

Posted on RAND.org on July 30, 2015

by Christine Buttorff, Antonio J. Trujillo, Francisco Diez-Canseco, Antonio Bernabe-Ortiz, J. Jaime Miranda

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Many low-income individuals from around the world rely on local food vendors for daily sustenance. These small vendors quickly provide convenient, low-priced, tasty foods, however, they may be low in nutritional value. These vendors serve as an opportunity to use established delivery channels to explore the introduction of healthier products, e.g. fresh salad and fruits, to low-income populations. We sought to understand preferences for items prepared in Comedores Populares (CP), government-supported food vendors serving low-income Peruvians, to determine whether it would be feasible to introduce healthier items, specifically fruits and vegetables. We used a best-worst discrete choice experiment (DCE) that allowed participants to select their favorite and least favorite option from a series of three hypothetical menus. The characteristics were derived from a series of formative qualitative interviews conducted previously in the CPs. We examined preferences for six characteristics: price, salad, soup, sides, meat and fruit. A total of 432 individuals, from two districts in Lima, Peru responded to a discrete choice experiment and demographic survey in 2012. For the DCE, price contributed the most to individual's utility relative to the other attributes, with salad and soup following closely. Sides (e.g. rice and beans) were the least important. The willingness to pay for a meal with a large main course and salad was 2.6 Nuevos Soles, roughly a 1 Nuevo Sol increase from the average menu price, or USD $0.32 dollars. The willingness to pay for a meal with fruit was 1.6 Nuevo Soles. Overall, the perceived quality of service and food served in the CPs is high. The willingness to pay indicates that healthier additions to meals are feasible. Understanding consumer preferences can help policy makers design healthier meals in an organization with the potential to scale up to reach a considerable number of low-income families.

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