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Appetite. 2013 Dec;71:209-17. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2013.08.018. Epub 2013 Sep 3.

Role of expendable income and price in food choice by low income families.

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  • 1Population Health Strategic Research Centre, Deakin University, Australia. Electronic address:


The public health literature suggests that the cheapness of energy-dense foods is driving the obesity epidemic. We examined food purchases in low-income families and its relationship to the price of food and availability of funds. In-depth interviews were conducted with 22 parents with children less than 15 years of age whose major source of income was a government pension. A photo taxonomy, where participants sorted 50 photos of commonly purchased foods, was used to explore food choice. The most common food groupings used by the participants were: basic, emergency, treat and comfort. The process of food purchase was described by participants as weighing up the attributes of a food in relation to price and money available. Shoppers nominated the basic unit of measurement as quantity per unit price and the heuristic for food choice when shopping as determining "value for money" in a process of triage relating to food purchase decisions. Participants stated satiation of hunger to be the most common "value" relative to price. Given that the foods nominated as filling tended to be carbohydrate-rich staples, we suggest that public health initiatives need to acknowledge this triage process and shape interventions to promote nutrition over satiation.


Food choice; Food cost; Food security

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