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A community focused approach toward making healthy and affordable daily diet recommendations

  • Germino, Joe
  • Szymanski, Annalisa
  • Metoyer, Ronald
  • Chawla, Nitesh V.
Published Article
Frontiers in Big Data
Frontiers Media S.A.
Publication Date
Nov 06, 2023
DOI: 10.3389/fdata.2023.1086212
  • Big Data
  • Original Research


Introduction Maintaining an affordable and nutritious diet can be challenging, especially for those living under the conditions of poverty. To fulfill a healthy diet, consumers must make difficult decisions within a complicated food landscape. Decisions must factor information on health and budget constraints, the food supply and pricing options at local grocery stores, and nutrition and portion guidelines provided by government services. Information to support food choice decisions is often inconsistent and challenging to find, making it difficult for consumers to make informed, optimal decisions. This is especially true for low-income and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) households which have additional time and cost constraints that impact their food purchases and ultimately leave them more susceptible to malnutrition and obesity. The goal of this paper is to demonstrate how the integration of data from local grocery stores and federal government databases can be used to assist specific communities in meeting their unique health and budget challenges. Methods We discuss many of the challenges of integrating multiple data sources, such as inconsistent data availability and misleading nutrition labels. We conduct a case study using linear programming to identify a healthy meal plan that stays within a limited SNAP budget and also adheres to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Finally, we explore the main drivers of cost of local food products with emphasis on the nutrients determined by the USDA as areas of focus: added sugars, saturated fat, and sodium. Results and discussion Our case study results suggest that such an optimization model can be used to facilitate food purchasing decisions within a given community. By focusing on the community level, our results will inform future work navigating the complex networks of food information to build global recommendation systems.

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