The Impact of Front-of-Package Labeling in Low Socioeconomic Areas
Description Degree awarded: M.S. School of Education, Teaching and Health. American University Front-of-package food labeling has become a growing marketing tool for food companies to encourage customers to purchase their products and educate them through the use of symbols and health claims. Previous research has examined how front-of-package labeling influences consumers' decisions to purchase products; however, most studies focus on populations living in areas with adequate income levels, sufficient access to grocery stores, and grocery stores that provide a variety of foods. The purpose of this research is to measure the effects, if any, of front-of-package food labeling on food preferences in a lower socioeconomic area of DC, where food options and establishments may be fewer and food environments less inviting. One-hundred and ten residents shopping at two major grocery stores in Ward 7, one of the lowest-income areas of Washington, DC, were surveyed to better understand the factors that regularly influence their food choices. To measure the role that front-of-package food labeling may play, we worked with two larger chain grocery stores. Customers were surveyed in order to gain a better understanding of the factors that influence their food choices. This study sheds light on the role of front-of-package labeling in environments where food preferences and access to foods may be limited, and in areas where price may play a more important factor than health benefits, as compared to more advantaged areas. The majority of participants in this study stated that nutrition was the most important factor when making food choices compared to cost, convenience, and taste. They also believed that front-of-package labeling plays a role in their food choices, and symbols can influence purchases. These findings indicate that this population has intent to make healthy choices in the grocery store, and there are opportunities for nutrition education in low-income areas.
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