DFC Research: Categories, Topics and Projects

DFC projects implement interdisciplinary, mixed-methods study designs across diverse settings and populations in low- and middle-income countries to build knowledge and generate evidence on a wide range of topics related to drivers of food choice. See here for more information on the overarching goals of DFC and here for more information on individual projects.

DFC research: Categories and topics

The set of DFC research projects covers three overarching categories of drivers: sociocultural, food environments and food systems, and policy, program, and intervention.

In the Request for Proposal documents for Rounds 1 and 2, an illustrative but non-exhaustive list of research topics within each category was provided (Table 1). Please refer to our archive for the RFPs and further information on the now-closed competitive grants program.

Table 1. DFC research projects: Categories of drivers and topics

1. Sociocultural
2. Food environments and food systems
3. Policy, program, and intervention

1A) Cultural, regional, and ethnic identities that influence food choice, with particular emphasis on expectations related to class, gender, and age to provide insight for tailoring nutrition and agricultural programs and messages.

2A) Drivers of food choices in areas experiencing rapid urbanization, fragile places, non-permanent places, environmentally vulnerable places, slums etc., including emphasis on eating ready-prepared foods, processed foods, and snacking.

3A) Specific agricultural, market or financial policy influences on food choice behaviors of affected households.

1B) Gender role differences in food choice to inform development of gender-aware or gender-transformative agricultural programs

2B) Factors that drive changes in food choice behaviors and increased consumption of industrially or locally processed foods in LMIC, particularly among primary food providers, women, and children.

3B) Differential influence of increases in agricultural productivity and agricultural income on the food choice behaviors of individual household members (e.g., fathers, mothers, children, aged).

1C) Work roles, social roles, and time demands that drive food choice and longitudinal changes in these roles and demands.

2C) Impact of different food packaging or food labels on the food choices of individuals with particular emphasis on primary food providers, women, and children.

3C) Impact of policies or programs that increase diversity in household food production on food choice behaviors of individual household members.

1D) Cognitive factors that drive food choice behaviors

2D) Impact of changes in markets on food choices of individuals and households, including focus on what happens to markets as incomes grow and demand increases in rural areas.

3D) Influence of extra income on food choices and subsequent effects on diet diversity and quality (e.g., giving cash vs. food)

1E) Food choice behaviors of household food providers in urban and rural settings to illuminate linkages in the agriculture-income-nutrition path, including markets, to better explain barriers and incentives for adoption of different interventions.

2E) Impact of food systems changes on food choice among households and individuals, particularly primary food providers, women, and children.

3E) Influence of changes in distribution of agricultural work on food choice behaviors of individual household members.

1F) Differential decision making within households around who eats what, how much, and when based on age, gender, other characteristics and/or household dynamics in regard to choice of what to consume versus sell, with emphasis on key demographic groups, including adolescent boys and girls, and their degree of autonomy or decision-making power.

2F) Causal paths and/or evaluate the impact of fiscal and monetary policy instruments on food choice at the household and individual levels and with attention to women and children.

3F) Development of methodologies to measure the impact of agricultural policies or projects on food choice processes, in particular food expenditures by households and individual food consumption.


2G) Influence of value chain modifications on food choice behaviors, particularly primary food providers, women, and children.


2H) Effects of prices on food choice, including exploration of what food purchases are affected and how they substitute between foods.

Integrating DFC concepts into research

Decision-making processes and behaviors at the individual and household levels are central to food choice. The 15 DFC projects aimed to investigate the “how” and the “why” of the choices that individuals make about the foods they obtain and consume in addition to the “what,” or the choice that is ultimately made.

Addressing the “how and why” requires systems thinking that situates an individual and their choices within their environment. Furthermore, systems thinking places emphasis on the processes that link an individual’s decision-making to their environment. As such, the majority of DFC projects feature multi-level designs with research topics that span at least two of the categories of drivers depicted in Table 1.

The objectives, goals, and themes and topics addressed by each of the 15 DFC projects are shown in Table 2.

Table 2. Round 1 and 2 projects: Objectives, goals, and themes and topics addressed.


Project title, lead institutions, and principle investigators

Research Objectives


DFC themes and topics addressed

Round 1 Projects

1) Explain how shifting livelihoods strategies among Tanzanian pastoralists influence socio-cultural and gender norms, food access and food valuation, and how the intersections of these ultimately influence food choice.

The development of a theory of diet change in the pastoral context and a framework for policy and program action.

1A) Cultural, regional, and ethnic identities

1B) Gender norms

2B) Changes in traditional practices

2E) Food systems changes

2G) Value chain modification

3C) Impact of milk production on food choice

3E) Changes in agricultural work

1) Evidence if impermanence in relation to land influences agro-biodiversity use/conservation and in turn influences access to, attitudes towards and choices about consumption of food.

Develop evidence-based, culturally appropriate policies and programs related to land tenure, rural development, nutrition, agriculture, and environmental conservation that enable people to overcome land impermanency syndrome, promote agro-diversity and empower people to make positive food choices.

2A) Other topic – land impermanence impact on food choice (choosing what to grow, gather, sell, and eat at household level)

Drivers of Food Choice in the Context of Overweight Among Women and Children in Malawi

Dr. Valerie Flax, RTI International

Dr. Chrissie Thakwalakwa, University of Malawi College of Medicine

1) Identify and explain predictors of dietary intake and food choice among Malawian mother-child dyads containing an overweight mother, child, or both.

Findings will be used to develop obesity prevention interventions.

1A) Impact of cultural aspects of obesity perceptions in child/self on food choice

1B) Focus on mother and child

1C) Cognitive factors that drive food choice

1D) Household food providers

1) Understand how changes from traditional to commercial agriculture are affecting the food choices of farmers in rural Indonesia.

The research findings will be used to make recommendations to inform more nutrition-sensitive decisions at national, local, industry, and household levels with the goal of fostering a food environment that is more conducive to healthier food choices in rural Indonesia

2B) Changes to traditional practices

2E) Foods systems changes

2F) Changes in land use policies impact on systems and food choice

3B) Changes in agricultural income 

1A) Intergenerational perspectives

2B) Urban poor changes in retail including processed foods

2E) Food systems change impact on food choice

1) Understand in what way progressing retail modernization and restructuration policies impact the diet diversity and quality of the urban poor who purchasing foods on a day-to-day basis.

Enlarge the capacity of local authorities in planning and implementing all-inclusive food-safe and nutrition-sensitive food retailing infrastructures.

1A) Intergenerational perspectives

2B) Urban poor changes in retail including processed foods

2E) Food systems change impact on food choice

Do agricultural input subsidies on staples reduce dietary diversity?


Dr. Helen Walls, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

1) Examine the impact of Malawi’s AIS program targeting mostly maize on overall food choices, by examining not just price and consumption of maize but crucially the effects of the AIS program on consumption of other foods.

2) Explore the wider context of food preferences and trade-offs, including by gender and socio-economic status.

Generate evidence to address a knowledge gap concerning the effects of AIS programs on dietary diversity and food choice, contributing to the development of nutrition-sensitive policy.

2F) Monetary policy instruments impact on food choice

3A) Agricultural policy influences on food choice behaviors

1) Examine factors in social and physical food environments of African cities that drive consumption of EDNP foods and beverages among adolescent girls and women.

Integrate findings into developing priorities for context-specific gender interventions to reduce consumption of EDNP foods of women and adolescent girls to reduce the gender gap.

1B) Young women’s food choice

2B) Changes that increase consumption of EDNP foods

Behavioral Drivers of Food Choice in Eastern India

Dr. Matty Demont, International Rice Research Institute

1) Understand the behavioral drivers of food choice as they relate to gender differences in decision-making of a target population of urban and rural households in lower to middle socioeconomic classes in West Bengal and Odisha.

Aid policymakers in designing segmented, nutrition-sensitive intervention strategies that are gender-appropriate and high-impact.

1A) Cultural aspects of meal construction

1B) Gender differences in food choice

1D) Cognitive factors that shape food choice

1E) Ex ante assessment of nutrition sensitive interventions on food choice

Round 2 Projects

1) Explore and characterize the drivers of food choice, food environment, and dietary adequacy among PLHIV and their families in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Provide a robust understanding of the underlying motivations behind dietary choices and patterns among PLHIV and their families to help shape nutritional guidelines and interventions to disrupt the impact of the double disease burden.

1A) Impact of identity on food choice (PLHIV)

1B) Gender role differences in food choice

1F) Intrahousehold decision-making

2B) Processed and convenience street foods

2H) Effects of prices on food choice

1) Quantify the importance of factors including price, satiety, taste, reputation, and subsidies as proximate drivers of food choice in the context of globalizing food markets 2) Identify the conditions under which women and men select global vs. traditional foods, and how variations in these conditions can alter selections 3) Assess the role of the public distribution system (PDS) as a driver of food choices and its implications for intake and for advancing nutrition transition.

Propose low-cost approaches to increasing women and men’s consumption of health-promoting diverse diets; provide recommendations for the food bundles available through public food distribution to support nutritional status and local food markets; and identify how gendered decision-making and roles in food selection and preparation can be involved or transformed to improve household food intake.

1A) Region, culture, gender

1B) Gender role differences

1D) Nutrition transition and changing markets

1E) Linkages in agriculture-income-nutrition path

1F) Intrahousehold gender comparison

2A) Nutrition transition

2B) Local versus non-local foods and processed foods

2C) Packaging

2D) Nutrition transition and changes in markets and demand

2E) Food systems changes 

2F) Public distribution system subsidies

2H) Effects of prices on food choice

3A) Financial policy influences on food choice

Understanding How Dynamic Relationships Among Maternal Agency, Maternal Workload and the Food Environment Affect Food Choices 

Dr. Kate Wellard, Natural Resources Institute

Dr. Elaine Ferguson, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Dr. Joweria Nambooze, Africa Innovations Institute

1) Determine impacts of agricultural workload on maternal food choices. 2) Examine factors influencing food choices and how they interact.

Develop a tool to predict where agricultural labor-saving devices might increase agriculture intervention nutrition-sensitivity and how to change food environments to improve food choices.

1B) Gender role differences (maternal agency)

1C) Work roles, time demands and labor saving in agricultural households

2C) Packaging as part of environmental assessment

2H) Effects of prices on food choice

3B) Labor changes of women

3E) Changes in distribution of agricultural work via labor saving devices

3F) New methodologies for assessing food environment situation analyses

Drivers of Demand for Animal-Source Foods in Low-Income Informal Settlements in Nairobi, Kenya 

Dr. Paula Dominguez-Salas, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Dr. Aurelia Lepine, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

1) Investigate the demand and supply side factors of animal-source foods (ASF) purchase and consumption to understand the source of variability in ASF intake between and within households living in Nairobi informal settlements.

Inform the design of sustainable food systems interventions, aimed at increasing ASF availability and consumption by low-income households.

1F) Differential decision making within households

2A) Drivers of food choice in informal settlements/slums

2C) Packaging as supply side characteristic

2D) Demand for ASF

2G) Value chains for ASF

2H) Effects of price on food choice

Incentivizing Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Urbanizing India

Dr. Sanjay Kinra, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

1) Examine whether incentivizing fruit and vegetable consumption can improve food choice in urbanizing India by developing a financial incentives scheme for rural India based on an existing model

2) Evaluate its feasibility as a prelude to a longer-term trial including clinical outcomes

Conduct a large-scale trial including clinical outcomes to investigate whether incentivizing fruit and vegetable consumption can reduce the risk of NCDs in urbanizing India.

1E) Agriculture-income-nutrition pathways and incentives

1F) Differential consumption of household members

2C) Packaging and labeling and advertising

2E) Food systems changes in urbanizing areas

2F) Incentives for fruit and vegetable purchase and consumption

2H) Effects of price on food choice

3D) Influence of extra income on food choice

1) Test the hypothesis that school garden programs can nudge children aged 8-12 toward healthier diets if known constraints, including low availability of healthy foods and the overriding influence of caregivers on children’s diets, are addressed explicitly.

Provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms through which school-based interventions can influence children’s food choices and thereby contribute to better nutrition intervention designs globally.

1B) Gender role differences

1F) School-parent-child intervention to influence child food choice

2E) Impact of food systems change on children

1) Depict how an artisanal mining livelihood (and the shift to it from an agricultural livelihood) impacts food choices, with a particular focus on the choices women and adolescent girls make for themselves and their young children.

Develop an SBCC strategy and recommend policy options for improving nutrition in similar marginal communities.

1A) Effect of identify on food choice (regional, ethnic, gender, cultural)

1B) Gender roles including child care and food choice

1C) Social, work, and other demands

2A) Drivers of food choice in vulnerable places (mining communities)

2B) Processed foods in women and children

2H) Effects of price on food choice