Building the foundation for wellness: understanding how design components of the convenience food environment impact the consumer-food relationship

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The humans-food relationship is a 2.5 million year old, symbiotic connection of “living together” which encouraged a “system of communication up and down the food chain” (Pollan, 2008). (Reardon,

The humans-food relationship is a 2.5 million year old, symbiotic connection of “living together” which encouraged a “system of communication up and down the food chain” (Pollan, 2008). (Reardon, 2015). Many researchers agree that this connection is a critical foundation for a beneficial relationship with food and engaging in healthy eating behaviors (McKeown, 2010; Neumark-Stainer et al., 2007; Ristovski-Slejepcevic et al., 2008; Simontacchi, 2007). Against the backdrop of a steadily increasing obesity rate and associated spending, it is critical to approach this issue from a systematic perspective such as understanding the powers that impact the consumer-food relationship (Aronne and Havas, 2009). Experts agree that the rapid increase in convenience food environments has contributed to an obesogenic foodscape that has negatively impacted consumers’ understanding of and interactions with food, resulting in consumption of nutritionally poor food, over-nutrition and chronic illness (Brownell and Battle-Horgen, 2004; Nestle, 2002). Additionally, designers and researchers are beginning to recognize the influence the built environment can have on actions (Patel, 2012; Wansink, 2010), behaviors and attitudes (Gallagher, 1993), even hindering or encouraging one to partake in healthy behaviors (Mikkelsen, 2011; Story et al., 2008). The goal of this study is to understand modern built convenience food environment design and its potential to impact the consumer-food relationship. This study utilizes a heavily qualitative approach, structured by a grounded theory methodology due to the lack of existing research (Martin & Hanington, 2012; O’Leary, 2010) and triangulates utilizing an analysis of secondary research, environmental audit through observations and a survey. The final result will be a compilation of design suggestions, based on those findings, for designing a BCCFE that encourages a healthy relationship between the consumer and food.