Mobile app increases vegetable-based preparations by low-income household cooks: A randomized controlled trial

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Abstract

Objective We built an app to help clients of food pantries. The app offers vegetable-based recipes, food tips and no-cost strategies for making mealtimes healthier and for bargain-conscious grocery shopping, among other themes. Users customize materials to meet their own preferences. The app, available in English and Spanish, has been tested in a randomized field trial.Design A randomized controlled trial with repeated measures across 10 weeks.Setting Clients of fifteen community food pantry distributions in Los Angeles County, USA.Participants Distributions were randomized to control and experimental conditions, and 289 household cooks and one of their 9-14-year-old children were enrolled as participants. Experimental dyads were given a smartphone with our app and a phone use-plan, then trained to use the app. 'Test vegetables' were added to the foods that both control and experimental participants received at their pantries.Results After 3-4 weeks of additional 'test vegetables', cooks at experimental pantries had made 38 % more preparations with these items than control cooks (P = 0.03). Ten weeks following baseline, experimental pantries also scored greater gains in using a wider assortment of vegetables than control pantries (P = 0.003). Use of the app increased between mid-experiment and final measurement (P = 0.0001).Conclusions The app appears to encourage household cooks to try new preparation methods and widen their incorporation of vegetables into family diets. Further research is needed to identify specific app features that contributed most to outcomes and to test ways in which to disseminate the app widely.

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Clarke, P., Evans, S. H., & Neffa-Creech, D. (2019). Mobile app increases vegetable-based preparations by low-income household cooks: A randomized controlled trial. Public Health Nutrition, 22(4), 714–725. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980018003117

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