Negotiating the supermarket: A critical approach to nutrition literacy among low-income consumers



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Because chronic diseases related to poor nutrition pose the greatest threat to public health in the U.S., using and understanding nutrition information has never been more critical for U.S. citizens, yet nutrition information has never been more confusing. Consumers from lower socioeconomic positions (SEP’s) are more likely to have poorer health and lower levels of nutrition literacy. This research considers the sociocultural, material, and autobiographical factors that influence how low-income consumers use and understand nutrition information, particularly point-of-purchase nutrition labels. This study further considers in what ways nutrition labels support or diminish informed choice and health capability among consumers from lower SEP’s. I worked with seven participants, and the methods include a nutrition literacy autobiography, concurrent think-aloud protocol while grocery shopping, a nutrition literacy assessment, and an interview. The participant narratives and subsequent analysis demonstrate the complexity of nutrition contexts and the difficulty consumers from lower SEP’s have accessing, interpreting, synthesizing, and applying nutrition information. I conclude with several recommendations for improving functional, interactive, and critical nutrition literacy.

This dissertation won 1st Place in the Texas Tech University Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award, Humanities/Fine Arts, 2017.

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Nutrition Literacy, Nutrition Labels, Capabilities Approach, Qualitative Research, Technical Communication, Health Communication, Tripartite Model of Nutrition Literacy, Informed Choice, Functioning and Agency, Nutrition Aliteracy, FDA, Nutrition Literacy Assessment