Can Latino Food Trucks (Loncheras) Serve Healthy Meals?

A Feasibility Study

Published in: Public Health Nutrition [Epub January 2017], p. 1-7. doi:10.1017/S1368980016003475

Posted on RAND.org on April 26, 2017

by Deborah Cohen, Benjamin Colaiaco, Mary Martinez-Wenzl, Monica Montes, Bing Han, Sandra H. Berry

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Access further information on this document at Public Health Nutrition [Epub January 2017]

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Objective

To conduct a pilot study to assess the feasibility of modifying food truck meals to meet the My Plate guidelines as well as the acceptability of healthier meals among consumers.

Design

We recruited the owners of Latino food trucks (loncheras) in 2013–2014 and offered an incentive for participation, assistance with marketing and training by a bilingual dietitian. We surveyed customers and we audited purchases to estimate sales of the modified meals.

Setting

City of Los Angeles, CA, USA.

Subjects

Owners or operators of Latino food trucks (loncheras) and their customers.

Results

We enrolled twenty-two lonchera owners and eleven completed the intervention, offering more than fifty new menu items meeting meal guidelines. Sales of the meals comprised 2% of audited orders. Customers rated the meals highly; 97% said they would recommend and buy them again and 75% of participants who completed the intervention intended to continue offering the healthier meals. However, adherence to guidelines drifted after several months of operation and participant burden was cited as a reason for dropout among three of eleven lonchera owners who dropped out.

Conclusions

Lonchera owners/operators who participated reported minimal difficulty in modifying menu items. Given the difficulty in enrolment, expanding this programme and ensuring adherence would likely need to be accomplished through regulatory requirements, monitoring and feedback, similar to the methods used to achieve compliance with sanitary standards. A companion marketing campaign would be helpful to increase consumer demand.

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