Latino Families Make Better Food Choices Based on Nutrition Feedback

Research by Salud America! investigator Dharma E. Cortes shows the power of feedback

Dates of Project: July 2009 through September 2011

Dharma E. Cortés, PhD, examined how low-income Latinos decide what food to purchase and whether providing them with nutrition education prompts them to buy healthier foods. The study was funded through Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children.

Description: Latino children and low-income children are more likely than other children to be overweight or obese, and Dharma E. Cortés, PhD, wanted to change that picture.

Cortés gave 20 low-income Latino families living in the Boston area $50 to purchase food and instructed them to save the receipts. Through home visits and observations at grocery stores, researchers worked with each family individually, giving them detailed feedback on their purchases and education about nutrition in general. Afterwards, the families received another $50 to purchase food and saved those receipts.

Cortés found that families changed several but not all of their food purchasing decisions. They significantly decreased the total number of calories purchased, but did not significantly decrease calories from processed foods and from beverages.

Cortés subsequently received two federal grants to continue her work: one to create and test a Spanish-language video of a grocery store tour and one to develop a mobile app focused on healthy food shopping.