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2. Family food lists and selecting the key foods

The purpose of this procedure is to identify food that is available and consumed in the research area, with a primary emphasis on vitamin A-rich food and a secondary concern with staple food. It is useful to understand how vitamin-containing foods "fit" in the overall dietary scheme. When we talk about staple food we are referring to food that constitutes the regular framework of eating in a community (see Glossary). This can include a cereal, grain, or root as well as other basics that are consumed on a daily basis, such as condiments or taste enhancers to staple food items. This procedure also provides a working vocabulary of the food related words and terms commonly used in the area.

A second purpose of this procedure is to begin the process of identifying attributes of the foods of interest. Free-listing interviews with key informants may also give the informants' knowledge about various vitamin A-rich foods in the local food system.

Since most carotene-rich foods are seasonal, the interview techniques should allow you to discover the different vitamin A-rich foods that are consumed at various times of the year. Although it would be ideal to conduct interviews during the different seasons, time restraints may not allow this. Therefore, you will need to gather information on seasonality at one time. Probing techniques and hypothetical situations during the key-informant interviews will help to discover the variety of vitamin A-rich food items available and consumed.

This procedure should be carried out with two types of informants that are referred to as Type I and Type 11. Type I includes members of the community who, due to their profession or area of expertise, are knowledgeable about local food sources. These informants are individuals who you may have identified at the outset of the research process as good sources of information. Examples may include the local doctor, a local merchant, or a local historian. In order to generate a working list of key foods, the exercise should initially be conducted with these individuals.

Type II refers to those community members whom you have selected as key-informants, including two or three mothers of preschool aged children, other primary caretakers, a male head of household, and a village elder. Once a preliminary food list has been established with the Type I informants, additional free lists should be carried out with six to eight Type II key-informants. Therefore, the team members should aim to carry out approximately ten free list exercises.

Refer to Section IV-B: "How to Conduct a Free List of Family Food" (pages 86-88). Forms needed for the free-listing are given. Following this you will need to select the list of key foods. This is described in Section IV-C: "How to Select Key Foods" (pages 88-92). Again, the forms are provided to complete this procedure.

3. Market survey 1 and 2

The purpose of the market surveys is to determine the costs involved when purchasing food items on the key food list identified in section IV-C-i., as well as for market-available foods in the Community Food System Data Tables.

Since many foods are seasonal and prices may vary according to food availability, you will need to assess possible price variation over a twelve month period. Therefore, during this exercise you will be collecting a range of prices which reflects seasonal variation.

This exercise should be carried out at the very outset of the study as well as at the end of the research phase of the project to see if the price ranges vary. First you will need to identify the locations where foods are sold. This can be done with your key-informants. Ask them to name the sites in the area where the majority of community members purchase their food.

a. Task on Food Costs

It is advisable to have someone from the area assist with this. This may be one of the research assistants or a key-informant. Remember that you are interested in getting the most accurate information possible; often a community member would be able to gather this in a survey of market vendors.

Select someone whom you feel would interact well with market vendors. Explain the purpose of the exercise and introduce the forms that are given. Set up a hypothetical market situation and have the interviewer, through the questioning, get the price of a food or foods, the corresponding quantity individuals generally buy, the price per serving, the price range over the year, and the months available. Once you have done this several times and are satisfied with the way the interview is conducted, you can begin in the market.

Start with the location where people buy most of their food. This will probably be the market, on market day, or in a local store.

i. Fill out Form 2.1 with the list of twenty-five to thirty food items from sections IV-B and IV-C (Form 1.3) in the left hand column and the locations where the foods are purchased in the top row. When listing the vitamin A food, be as descriptive as possible about the part of the item on which you are gathering information. For example, if you were to include sweet potato, you would want to specify whether you are referring to the leaf or the root on Form 2.1.
ii. Be sure to take the list to the place where people purchase most of their food, in this case, to the market.
iii. Go to vendors with whom the assistant is familiar and who are selling food items included on the list of key foods. Begin by explaining that this project is to learn more about food prices and that you would like to ask the vendor some questions about the food being sold.
iv. Once the purpose of the visit is explained, the assistant should begin the interview. When asking about particular food items, the assistant should select the standard purchasing amount of each item. For example, it is unlikely that a vendor will sell one carrot, but will probably sell bunches of carrots.

The assistant may start by selecting a food item that the vendor is selling and say, "I see that you have sweet potatoes. What times of the year are sweet potatoes available?"

The assistant may continue by saying, "How much are you selling sweet potatoes for today?"

It is also important that you inquire about the cost of the food item at other times of the year, when availability differs. Inquire about the prices according to the local seasons.

For example, the assistant may say, "You said that sweet potato is available from now through the rainy season. How much is the price of sweet potato at the end of the rainy season?"

v. Write down the months that the item is available and the price range in the appropriate box on Form 2.1 and be sure to include the corresponding amount of food.
vi. Continue inquiring about the different food items on the list. The interviewer will probably have to move from vendor to vendor to get prices for all of the food items listed. When visiting different vendors, the interviewer may also ask about the prices of food items for which she has already gathered information to ascertain the accuracy of the price elicited during the first interview. If she finds that there is a wide range of prices, include the range in the appropriate box on Form 2.1.
vii. Once the interviewer has gathered prices for all of the foods on the list that can be purchased in the market, then continue interviewing in the other locations where the foods are available. For example, the next location where the interviewer may want to inquire about food prices may be in a local store or perhaps with the butcher. Continue conducting the interviews until all of the possible purchasing locations and foods purchased at these sites have been exhausted. If the food can be purchased in several locations, be sure to indicate which purchase site and price correspond. The right hand margin of the table can be used to record time of year when price is highest or lowest.

b. Procedures for Analysis

i. For each food item, include the price range which takes into account the various locations where food can be purchased in the area, and the price variation according to seasonality, in the right hand box on Form 2.1.
ii. Using the information on Form 2.1, construct a rank ordering by transferring the information from Form 2.1 to Form 2.2.
iii. Rank the thirty key foods from the most expensive per serving to the least expensive on Form 2.2. When there is a price range, select the higher end of the range when determining the rank order. Be sure to include the corresponding price (or price range) and the corresponding food quantity in the appropriate box. Check the Community Food System Data Tables for vitamin A content of food and then determine the price or price range per 1 000 RE of food. Leave this column blank if the vitamin A content of the food is not known.

FORM 2.1 Market Survey Table



Food Item

Food Quantity

Commercial Food Source



Months Available

Price Range

Price per Serving































Over the six to eight week period that the assessment is being conducted, the team leader should make continual visits to the market looking for information that may apply to the research focus, and changes that may occur in the market during the assessment period. Marker survey forms should be completed at least twice-at the beginning and at the end of the period. Prices should be added to the Community Food System Data Tables as new food items are added. Participant observation is a research method that can give useful and different types of information. Through observation you may be able to gather information that was not gained through an interview. For example, when visiting the market you can observe the size and quantity of the food items in their purchased forms, the way that the foods have been preserved, or the way in which people living in the community actually select food.

During these market visits you may also want to conduct informal interviews with the market vendors to get additional information, such as where food comes from or for how much it was purchased.

It is advisable to avoid being conspicuous in taking notes in the market setting. However, to record the information accurately, it is important to record your observations and any other information you collected there shortly after you leave the market. If there are questions, consult with a key-informant while it is fresh in your mind.

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