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2. Food Differences

During your next meeting with the respondent you may want to add to information from the attribute module with another interview technique that is aimed at examining the differences among the staple and/or vitamin A-rich foods. This module uses concrete examples and is therefore relatively easy to carry out, allowing the researcher to probe further into concepts of foods. Comparing food differences may uncover classifications or dimensions that have not been mentioned before.

Select food that you think is of particular importance to the community, food that you would like to gather additional information on, or food that through the other modules you have discovered may be interesting to compare, especially food containing vitamin A. For example, you may want to compare indigenous greens to less vitamin-rich vegetables that have been recently introduced. It may be instructive to examine differences among those foods that belonged together (foods placed in the same pile) during the pile sort module to get a better understanding of aspects of the food items that the population considers different or similar. You may also want to look at food that was not included in the key list of food items, but which you have identified during the initial research period as being important to the community. Once you feel that you have gathered enough information on one combination of foods you may want to change your list and explore other food difference comparisons. This module takes approximately fifteen minutes.

FORM 5.1 Attribute Form for Individuals (M2)

Respondent's Name: ________________________Respondent No:_________________

Food Name
































FORM 5.2 Summary of Responses of Food by Attributes (M2)

Food Name:____________________________________________________________________



Administering the Task

i. You can conduct this method of questioning with or without cards with food pictures. You may ask for example: "What are the main differences between anta (Hausa: liver) and kwai (Hausa: eggs)?"
ii. Probe to obtain as many differences as possible (e.g., frequency of consumption, expense, preparation, who eats these foods, seasonal availability, terms used for the food, etc.) You may also ask which food the respondent considers to be better and why.
iii. Always keep in mind the purpose of the module. That is, to identify the terms, attributes, and classifications (see Glossary) associated with food. As you conduct the modules, descriptive language should emerge highlighting common beliefs and attitudes about food.

Procedures for Analyzing the Data

i. Include the food items and the respondent's name on Form 5.3 before conducting the interview. Four pairs of foods to be compared for differences can be included on each form. List the differences between each pair of foods on the form as the module is being administered. Any one food can be compared to several food items. A single attribute will be mentioned more than once if it is important.
ii. Form 5.4 should be used to calculate the responses. You will use one form for each food difference comparison. Write the food items in the designated places. Transfer the terms, attributes, classifications and dimensions mentioned for each food item by going through all of the responses and including them on Form 5.4. As you did during the previous procedure, calculate the number of times each term or attribute was mentioned by each informant and include that figure under Number.
iii. Examine the Percent columns on the forms and calculate the number of times respondents mentioned each term or attribute by dividing the total number of responses by the number of responses for that particular item. Write in the percent of the responses. Go through the entire list of terms and attributes and calculate all of the percentages.

NOTE: This module is useful for comparing food qualities, verifying responses, and getting more precise answers. It is also helpful for gathering in-depth information on particular food items. Therefore, as you learn more about a food, you may want to return to this procedure.

M2a. Optional Directed Free List with Attributes


If you would like to complement the information collected through the attribute task, you may want to conduct a second, directed free list in which you ask the respondent to sort according to the qualities or descriptors understood from the attribute and pile sort tasks. This will give you further evidence concerning how foods are classified. For example, in communities in which food is classified as hot or cold you may want to explore this more fully with a directed free list. In parts of West Africa researchers have found that many of the vitamin A-rich foods are considered to be blood rich, a food attribute highly valued and associated with vitamin A-rich foods. Or if you find that food available in the area is consumed to remedy nigh/blindness you may want to conduct the directed free list module, asking the respondents to list food items that are believed to protect against or treat for nigh/blindness. Keep in mind that you are trying to extract concepts and ideas about vitamin A-rich food, and the way in which people's classification of food affects perceptions of food and influences intake. Select attributes that are used frequently when describing vitamin A-rich food, or attributes that you have identified as important to the community when discussing food. Expect this module to take about fifteen minutes. Once you have exhausted the range of responses, select three different attributes and continue the exercise.

FORM 5.3 Individual Form for Food Differences (M2)

Respondent's Name: _____________________Respondent No:__________________________________

1. Food Item:

Compared to

Food Item:



2. Food Item:

Compared to

Food Item:


Terms /Attributes:

3. Food Item:

Compared to

Food Item:



4. Food Item:

Compared to

Food Item:

Terms/ Attributes :


FORM 5.4 Summary of Responses to Food Differences (M2)

Food Item:



Food Item:



Administering the Task

i. Select attributes (three per form) that you would like to explore further. Fill out Form 5.5 before beginning the task with the respondent.
ii. Tell the respondent you would like to know more about which food items are (choose a classification) vitamin-rich.
iii. Ask her to list all of the foods she considers vitamin-rich. If the respondent needs encouragement give examples.
iv. Review the list(s) and probe for additional features. For example, you may say "You've said that X,Y. and Z are all vitamin-rich foods. Are they alike in any other ways?"
v. Once you feel that the respondent has completed the list continue the module by going through the same process with the other attributes on Form 5.5.

Analyzing the Data

i. Once you have conducted this module, you will want to arrange the responses systematically on Forms 5.6 and 5.7 as you did during the first free list task.

M3. Rating Food Attributes Purpose

Structured rating techniques are useful to explore further how people assign attributes to food. Many different attributes associated with food are discovered during in-depth, key-informant interviewing, as well as from pile sorts, the free list of family food, and the attribute module. More structured techniques, such as rating, will enable you to gain a clearer picture of the relative values people assign to specific food items in relation to culturally-assigned attributes. This rating process will also help identify differences in patterns within groups or cultures in the study area.

In the structured rating technique, you ask your informants to rate the key food items in terms of each of the main attributes that you have identified during interviews, free list, and pile sort modules. Remember that the primary purpose is to gather additional information on food rich in vitamin A and ways in which food fits into the local food structure. Therefore you will want to be selective in choosing the list of attributes. Keep in mind that your goal is to gather information that will add to the data and help in understanding the vitamin A picture.

Before conducting this module meet with your team members to identify attributes that require further investigation and could potentially give pertinent information through the module. It is important to go through the preliminary results from Modules I and 2 to identify areas for additional exploration. Keep in mind that you want information to design messages for a vitamin A deficit intervention strategy. Therefore you will want to select attributes or terms that are related to the objectives of the study. For example, a team of researchers in the Philippines selected the following six attributes: nutritious, delicious, good for the baby/child, good for the eyes, good for the mothers, and foods that cause illness. Also consider abstract attributes of foods that may be related to theories of general health maintenance, such as the concept of trot end cold that is widespread in Asia and Latin American, or chi, an important concept in China that refers to fluid energy in the body.

Normally you will ask respondents to rate foods on a scale from one to five for each attribute. For example, a procedure might include rating your series of foods (twenty to thirty items) in terms of healthfulness: (1) very unhealthy, (2) unhealthy, (3) intermediate, (4) healthy, and (5) very healthy. If you find that a five-point scale is difficult for your respondents to use, a three-point scale may be more appropriate.

This kind of rating task has been used successfully in communities with high rates of illiteracy, particularly when presented as a game. To do this, you could create a simple game board. You can use a wooden board, or perhaps simply a piece of cardboard, about twenty inches long and four or five inches wide. If you use a wooden board, carve out shallow depressions or slots corresponding to the five- or three-point ratings. The depressions should be large enough to hold the cards representing the different foods. If you construct the gameboard cardboard, you simply draw the five boxes in a series from left to right.

One disadvantage to the gameboard is that the cards that have already been rated cannot be seen by the respondent. You may find that the respondent feels more comfortable responding without the gameboard, with the cards lying adjacent to one another so that they are all visible. Another possibility is to create large enough slots on the game board so that all of the cards can be seen.


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