Samenvatting van de aanvraag

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In this proposal we highlight the potential of the public environment in supporting people in their attempts to eat more healthily when they are on the go either in or outside their neighborhoods. In a unique collaboration between psychology, urban geography, medicine and the Public Health Services Department of the city of Utrecht (PHDU), we aim to increase people’s control over snack consumption by providing them with healthy snack alternatives, based on an analysis of where and when they eat snacks when they are outside their homes. We do so in close collaboration with the PHDU that highlights the role of positive health in underprivileged neighborhoods by ‘healthy cityfication’.


The primary aim of the project is to facilitate healthy snacking in the urban environment by making healthy snacks available at critical times and spots with a mobile snacking device. The target group consists of people from underprivileged neighborhoods in the city of Utrecht who run a higher risk of getting overweight by heavy snack consumption. Whereas people with low SES indicate that they are willing to turn unhealthy snack consumption into healthier consumption patterns, they also reveal that they have few opportunities to do so and that they have other things on their mind than actively seeking out healthy snacking opportunities (as witnessed by a pilot study that we ran for the present proposal). Our approach of making healthy snacks more accessible will contribute to increased opportunities for turning good intentions into action. Importantly, this approach holds that we make healthy snacking easier and more attractive without patronizing people.

The whole project consists of five phases. First, we will identify critical places and moments for unhealthy snacking by providing a sample that is representative of the target population with an app that registers GPS and accelerometer data and allows for keeping a snack diary (Phase 1). Second, we will conduct a qualitative study to determine preferences for types of healthy snacks, design of the mobile snacking device, and places and times for the placement of the mobile device with an emphasis on the co-creation of these essential features of making healthy snacks more accessible (Phase 2). Short-term and long-term effectiveness of the mobile food device in terms of healthy snack purchase and consumption (Phases 3 and 4) and healthy snack habits and healthy eater identity (Phase 4) will be addressed by examining snack purchases from the mobile device and in-depth follow-up of a cohort of participants. In addition, we will examine to what extent the target group experiences more control over their food intake and whether their attention to cues in the food environments has altered because of exposure to the mobile device (by mobile eye tracking) Finally, in Phase 5 dissemination and implementation of project findings will be addressed by a) communicating project findings to the target group of underprivileged people and explaining how people may increase control over their food environment inside and outside their homes (highlighting important concepts such as mindless eating and installing habits to avoid conflicts about tempting foods); b) communicating project findings to important stakeholders involved in public health and professionals involved in city planning by means of a conference and workshops during which the audience can familiarize themselves with strategies to implement the approach adopted in this project into their own local arrangements; and c) communicate project findings to parties that may implement the approach taken in this project in collaboration with Utrecht Science Park ( that aims to set up partnerships between academic researchers and (start-up) companies.


Dutch summary


Veel mensen willen graag minder ongezond snacken maar vinden het lastig om dit voornemen in de praktijk te brengen omdat ze voortdurend geconfronteerd worden met ongezonde snacks als ze op weg zijn naar school, werk of andere activiteiten – vooral als ze in zogeheten krachtwijken wonen. In het project Food in Motion beogen we om gezond eten gemakkelijker te maken door gezonde snacks aan te bieden op plaatsen en tijden waar mensen regelmatig ongezond snacken. Het onderzoeksteam bestaat uit psychologen, geografen, medici en medewerkers van de gemeente Utrecht. Samen met deelnemers aan het onderzoek brengen we in kaart wat ‘gevaarlijke’ tijden en plaatsen zijn voor ongezond snacken en ontwikkelen een mobiele snackkar die lekkere en gezonde snacks aanbiedt. Door de stedelijke omgeving anders in te richten en het gezonde alternatief toegankelijker hopen we dat gezond snacken een vanzelfsprekend onderdeel wordt van een gezonde leefstijl.


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