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Household food shop and unconditional food assistance: can we talk of healthy eating?

Toni Mora, IRAPP, Universitat Internacional de Catalunya; Blanca Raidó Quintana, Red Cross
Project selected in the Social Research Call 2019 (LCF/PR/SR19/52540003)

The aim of this study is to find out about and evaluate household food shops made by Red Cross in Catalonia users who received a prepaid card to use at Bon Àrea establishments over a seven-year period (from 2016 to 2022). Only the nutritional aspect of the food products purchased with this assistance is analysed, and not that of the total foods consumed by the households. Specifically, there is information available relating to 18,449 cards and to 450 establishments all over Catalonia, as well as a total of 4,742,146 food products purchased and aggregated in monthly periods. In order to be able to evaluate from different viewpoints both the quality of the food and that of the purchases made, five complementary indexes have been used. Since all indexes have some comparability, they have been re-scaled to between 0 and 100. Values closer to 100 imply healthier purchases.
Key points
  • 1
       The monitoring of the Mediterranean diet of the whole sample of beneficiaries of the Red Cross assistance is situated below the empirical evidence for the Spanish population: 42.4 vs. 53, and the Healthy Eating Index (50.5 vs. 71.3) is also lower.
  • 2
       As regards the three benchmark indexes for France (PNNS, HPI, and FSA-NPS-DI), a country with a diet similar to that of Spain, the sample of beneficiaries also registers values below those evidenced for the French population.
  • 3
       By characteristics, there are no differences in the type of consumption by sex or age of the card beneficiary. However, considerable heterogeneity can be seen by nationality: the healthiest purchases correspond to individuals from the Maghreb region, from Asia and from the rest of Africa, with 13.5%, 12.0% and 8.2%, respectively, above the value of the Spaniards.
  • 4
       Although the data only allow us to analyse purchases made thanks to the assistance, the results indicate that this adherence to a healthy eating pattern by this population is lower than the overall value for Spain. This suggests that interventions are needed to improve food purchasing patterns among the most economically disadvantaged segments of the population.
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