Abstract for: Access to Healthy Food Innovations and Initiatives across Socio-economic Classes

We analyze the problem of and solutions for the inequality of access to nutritional innovation and policies. Recent evidence shows healthy-eating-related efforts geared towards reducing obesity are not reaching the most vulnerable and highest benefiting populations. We analyze this problem using a system-dynamics-based nutritional food market transformation model that captures interactions between food supply, consumer demand, consumer health and government policies with a focus on differences between socio-economic classes. Grounded in data from the Canadian context, our preliminary results show a nutritional inequality, with ingredient-driven innovations (healthier food products currently marketed by many firms) leading to disproportionally low BMI improvements for the poorer population segment. We explore mechanisms underlying the differential impact by examining various industry- and government-driven actions currently used and designed to improve nutrition in the population, namely (a) investments into improving nutritional quality of food and its taste, (b) policies to lower the cost of this food for lower-income consumers, and (c) policies to subsidize the cost of research and development. We identify success factors that may help healthy food innovations overcome the inclusiveness gap. We consider community-based innovations and directives directly targeted to lower-wealth. We discuss their implementation in the model as well as next steps.