A Recipe for Food Literacy: Designing and Evaluating Technologies for Informed Food Choices
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Technology increasingly mediates our everyday interactions with food, ranging from purchasing and handling to preparation and eating. And now — more than ever — technology influences the food we buy and ultimately consume. Food literacy — the interconnected combination of awareness, knowledge, skills, and behaviours that empower an individual to make informed food choices — has great potential to be implemented in technology designs and lead to healthy eating patterns. However, current technology designs lack this holistic approach to support reflective and informed food choices. We associate this problem with a lack of guidance for designers, with a solution that encapsulates best practices from the nutrition literature translated into actionable technology designs. This dissertation examines the following research questions: (1) How can we support the development of food literacy through technology at a physical grocery store?; (2) How can food literacy be used to facilitate the design and evaluation of food-related technologies to promote informed choices?; and (3) How do HCI practitioners use food literacy heuristics to evaluate and design food-related technologies? To address these questions, we first ran a proof-of-concept study (Study 1) at a grocery store. We designed a gameful mobile app to investigate how different technology designs incorporating concepts from food literacy would influence food choices through a situated approach at a grocery store. Then, we devised a set of food literacy heuristics in a study involving nutrition experts (Study 2) to guide the design and evaluation of food-related technology. Finally, we confirmed the utility of our heuristics with HCI experts (Study 3) to assess how they would use them in technology design. In Study 1, we ran a three-week exploratory field study with 24 young adults comparing our situated and gameful app (PBGA) to a non-situated, non-gameful app (MFG) to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their designs in terms of promoting food literacy and motivating healthy eating behaviour. In Study 2, we applied an iterative, expert-driven process that included reviewing the nutrition and HCI literature, a mixed-methods study with website evaluations and interviews with 12 nutrition experts, and a qualitative analysis of those interviews to refine our food literacy heuristics. In Study 3, we then conducted mixed-methods interviews and website evaluations using the heuristics with 12 HCI experts to demonstrate their utility for evaluating and designing food-related technology. Findings from our first study revealed that our gameful mobile app (PBGA) effectively improved players' nutrition knowledge and motivation for healthier food choices and reduced impulse purchases. We found that the situated approach of providing information during food purchase, combined with gameful design features like challenges, and other visual features such as traffic light colours, contributed to this success. Other results from this study also revealed the importance of a more significant focus on planning, so consumers can optimize their time in the store since a few participants raised concerns about lack of time. Findings from our second study, involving nutrition experts, have shown how the heuristics support both summative (i.e., outcome-focused) and formative (i.e., process-focused) design and evaluation by encapsulating best practices to support informed food choices. Finally, findings from our third study, involving HCI practitioners, revealed how the heuristics helped participants reflect on their own challenges around food literacy, and tensions between nutrition best practices and HCI experts' personal opinions. The heuristics also served as inspiration and guidance for generating novel design ideas for various applications to support informed food choices. Collectively, the findings from our three studies resulted in design guidelines in the form of heuristics that are readily available for HCI practitioners to incorporate support for food literacy in their designs. We also offer a reflection on the importance of involving different research communities, such as public health practitioners and dietitians, in designing food-related technologies for a holistic approach to Human-Food Interaction. This strategy will ensure these technologies encapsulate the best nutrition practices and support not only individual users but also users as part of a population.
Cite this version of the work
Marcela Costa Bomfim (2022). A Recipe for Food Literacy: Designing and Evaluating Technologies for Informed Food Choices. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/18454