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Community members share insights into their purchasing habits, food access experiences

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Posted: December 11, 2013

Community involvement is at the heart of the EFNSE project, and our researchers rely on community members’ help for many aspects of the project. During the last year, researchers on the Consumption Team conducted their first round of shopper intercept surveys, asking members of each of the project’s nine partner communities to take a break from their grocery shopping to participate in the survey. All told, they surveyed 902 shoppers at 17 stores.
A member of the EFSNE Consumption Team conducts an intercept survey with a Baltimore shopper. Credit: Anne Palmer, Johns Hopkins University

A member of the EFSNE Consumption Team conducts an intercept survey with a Baltimore shopper. Credit: Anne Palmer, Johns Hopkins University

Their goal? “We want to identify any community-level constraints that may be limiting people’s access to healthy food,” explained Anne Palmer, who leads the team’s efforts. “We also want to explore what opportunities might exist for improving that access. Talking with shoppers directly about purchasing habits and food-access concerns is one of the ways we’re approaching these questions.”

Shoppers answered questions about their level of satisfaction with the quality, variety, and prices of foods available at the stores where they were shopping. They also were asked about their spending habits, about barriers that may prevent them from buying more healthy foods, and about how often they buy the foods identified by the EFSNE project as “market basket” items. All of the market basket foods are produced in the Northeast, and provide researchers an opportunity for understanding customers’ demand for these foods.

To capture changes over time, the Consumption Team will conduct two more rounds of shopper surveys, also known as intercept surveys, during the course of the project. These data will be combined with other data collected in the project to assess the relationship among food access, store characteristics, prices, and food-insecure customers’ buying decisions in the nine sites.

The intercept survey is just one instrument developed by the team. To date, Consumption Team members also have conducted 17 focus groups and have completed inventories at each of the participating grocery stores to assess the availability and prices of the project’s “market basket” items.

More information about the Consumption Team’s activities is available here.