Yingli Wang and Martin O’Neill were interested in improving healthier food accessibility and impacting on heath inequalities in areas categorised as disadvantaged.
The concept of a “floating” market (a market that could travel to different communities) was established and then tested with four focus groups organised in four different deprived communities in South Wales. In total more than 50 participants attended the sessions and provided valuable insights into the researched subject. In addition discussions were also held with Welsh Government in exploring this issue from the policy perspective.
The focus groups responded overwhelmingly that price would be the most significant factor in whether floating markets were a success. In addition, social interaction, choice and delivery were also determining factors.
The research reveals that a significant barrier to people accessing a greater selection of food is getting the produce from the shop to the home. Two alternatives are possible: either a dedicated store-based spoke-and-hub approach initiated by retailers; or mobile intermediaries such as post-offices acting as agents in order to consolidate demands and ensure supply.
Online shopping and food delivery was the most convenient option, but is a barrier to social interaction which participants thought was important.
The floating market model could expand traditional food retailing. To successfully address these issues, it is important that relevant agencies appreciate that the way people choose where to shop for food is a complex social issue. Simply providing an access to food will not automatically lead to healthier diet and well-being. Without considering the multiple social needs of a community, such intervention either from charities or government bodies will not be accepted.
This research has attracted interests from the Welsh Government, and a charity called FareShare. Researchers are also in touch with colleagues from School of Bioscience who are working to find ways to determine the perishability of fresh produce in the hopes of extending food life span and reducing food waste. Discussions were also held with Cardiff Business School’ Consumer Behaviour Analysis Research Group which is keen in food related research and has expertise in consumer behaviour.