A Qualitative Study of Food Choice in Urban Coastal Esmeraldas, Ecuador

Jessica Uruchima, Cala Renehan, Nancy Castro, William Cevallos, Karen Levy, Joseph NS Eisenberg, Gwenyth O. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Constraints on food choice increase risk of malnutrition worldwide. Residents of secondary cities within low- and middle-income countries are a population of particular concern because they often face high rates of food insecurity and multiple nutritional burdens. Within this context, effective and equitable interventions to support healthy diets must be based on an understanding of the lived experience of individuals and their interactions with the food environment. Objectives: The primary objectives of this study were to describe considerations that drive household decision making around food choice in the city of Esmeraldas, Ecuador; to identify trade-offs between these considerations; and to understand how an evolving urban environment influences these trade-offs. Methods: Semistructured interviews were conducted with 20 mothers of young children to explore drivers in food choice throughout the purchase, preparation, and consumption chain. Interviews were transcribed and coded to identify key themes. Results: Personal preference, economic access (costs), convenience, and perceptions of food safety were key influencers of decision making related to food. In addition, concerns about personal safety in the urban environment limited physical access to food. This, combined with the need to travel long distances to obtain desirable foods, increased men's participation in food purchasing. Women's increasing engagement in the workforce also increased men's participation in food preparation. Conclusions: Policies to promote healthy food behavior in this context should focus on increasing access to health foods, such as affordable fresh produce, in convenient and physically safe locations. Curr Dev Nutr 2023;x:xx.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100093
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2023


  • Ecuador
  • food environment
  • food safety
  • food security
  • qualitative
  • urbanicity


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