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The overarching theme of the proposed research is an assessment of the food aspirations, nutrition perspectives, and barriers of consumers, particularly of those with low incomes. We expect that the gap in diet quality from the ideal for consumers with low incomes is the result of binding constraints associated with costs, access, and behavioral context. The project rests upon three objectives.Objective 1. Food consumer goals and aspirations. To describe the food aspirations of consumers with low incomes. Through qualitative interviews and quantitative analysis, we will identify food patterns that low-income consumers consider desirable. The structure of the Thrifty Food Plan and many least-cost diets is that current consumption reflects desired consumption (Wilde and Llobrera, 2009). However, current consumption reflects cost constraints and other barriers, so the food consumption pattern of middle- or higher-income consumers may offer a better indication of the underlying food aspirations for consumers with low incomes.Objective 2. Nutrition perspectives and motivations. To identify the food categories that consumers with low-income know, seek to meet, and have difficulty meeting. Current Thrifty Food Plan practice sets nutrient and food category constraints to identify optimal diets (Carlson et al., 2007; Wilde and Llobrera, 2009). The proposed approach will identify which nutrients and MyPlate food categories low-income consumers know about, seek to satisfy, and have difficulty satisfying. Many of the nutrient and food group constraints in the Thrifty Food Plan framework are non-binding. Fruits and vegetables are notable food categories that are both binding constraints and frequently identified by low-income consumers as foods that they seek to acquire (Zhang, et al., 2018).Objective 3. Economic and non-economic constraints. To assess and relax the constraints that prevent consumers from achieving their food aspirations. The qualitative data will help us search for and identify the resource, time, and psychological constraints that prevent low-income consumers from achieving their goals for an affordable, healthy, desirable food bundle. We will evaluate the implications of multiple constraints. While previous research focused on the cost constraint as the dominant factor to poor diet quality, newer research suggests the importance of time. However, no research considers the combination of these and other constraints. We anticipate the combination of these, not solely the individual constraints, are what limit diet quality.

Wilde, P.
Tufts University
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