"Loncheras" are mobile based food trucks and are a popular source of food away from home among working class Latinos. Food is inexpensive and the truck typically goes to factories, construction sites and other places where fixed restaurants are not always available. Typically, loncheras serve fast food like burritos and tacos, offer insufficient fruit and vegetable options, and typically provide more calories, fat, and salt than should be consumed in single meal. Lonchera cooks provide foods they are familiar with, often have no nutritional training, and may not be familiar with the health consequences of the foods they serve. Their businesses are extremely low margin and thus very sensitive to changes in the economy because they rely on low-income clientele. At the same time, the clients may not be very health-conscious and may make decisions about what to eat based on superficial characteristics like quantity, price, and placement of food options on menus and menu boards, and other contextual factors, of which individuals may not be consciously aware. In order to address this problem of poor dietary options and poor consumer decision-making we plan to encourage loncheras to offer meals that do not require customers to substantially compensate at a later time. Thus, this project will promote the concept of "My Plate" and determine its acceptability and economic feasibility. My Plate will contain 1/3 to 1/4 of daily recommended nutrients, including at least 1 cup of vegetables, 1 cup of fruit, 1-3 oz whole grains, <5 oz of meat or meat equivalent, <500 mg sodium, <30% calories from fat, and <10% calories from saturated fat, AND it will provide either 500 or 700 calories. People who eat these meals routinely should theoretically be able to adhere to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and prevent weight gain, as well as reduce their risk for other chronic diseases, like hypertension and diabetes.
The specific aims are to: 1) Conduct formative research to determine the best way to promote a "My Plate" meal in Hispanic mobile food trucks to truck business owners and customers;2) Provide technical assistance and incentives to 20 mobile food trucks to help them offer My Plate meal options;3) Assess consumer response to the My Plate meal options by tracking the number of meals ordered in relationship to sales of a reference item (most popular meal) and conducting brief surveys among customers;and 4) Examine the utility of marketing incentives and other factors associated with purchases of My Plate meals including a) customer loyalty programs, b) contests for the tastiest "My Plate" meal, and c) favored My Plate ingredients. This study will provide feasibility information for a future community level trial to improve dietary behaviors.
This pilot study will assess the uptake of My Plate Meals among Hispanic mobile food trucks that serve working class Latino customers and determine their acceptability and economic feasibility as a means to inform a future community trial.
|Cohen, Deborah A; Story, Mary (2014) Mitigating the health risks of dining out: the need for standardized portion sizes in restaurants. Am J Public Health 104:586-90|