Ensuring people across the UK can access healthy foods, which they are able to purchase, prepare and consume easily, is key to providing equitable access to a healthy diet. However, the relationship between food access and healthier food consumption is not yet clear.
Community Shop is a social supermarket that supports ten deprived communities in England. It is based on a membership model; all members receive government means-tested benefits. The model seeks to alleviate food insecurity by providing households with access to a retail space in which high quality food is sold at discounted prices (approximately 30% of RRP).
Through a partnership with Community Shop, we want to understand whether purchasing and consumption of healthier foods increases if healthy foods are made available at an affordable price within a local food retail outlet. We also want to understand what further action can support people to access a healthier diet.
We want to get more evidence on the key factors that influence healthy food access as well as how effective interventions are to enable consumers to purchase healthier options. Understanding the nuanced factors involved in providing healthier foods to consumers helps the healthy life team consider how retail environments and community spaces across the country could broaden and secure healthy food access for more consumers.
We are conducting immersive field research to understand both the environment and the consumer groups involved in the project.
We are examining Community Shop purchasing data to allow the team to identify patterns and trends across the previous eight years. We are engaging with stakeholders, data and information from Community Shop to understand the extent to which specific factors within the model results in changes to healthy purchasing behaviour. We are holding a co-design workshop with key project members from both Nesta and Community Shop, key stakeholders identified through the project and Community Shop members to explore interventions as part of our action-orientated research approach.
This will enable us to test the real world impact of food environment design with healthy food access as a key outcome.