The project, known as the CHANCE project, consists of a multidisciplinary consortium of 17 partners in nine EU countries, and will be coordinated by Professors Francesco Capozzi and Alessandra Bordoni at University of Bologna, Italy.
The project aims to increase awareness of the issues surrounding poor nutrition in people living in poverty among policy makers, consumer organisations, scientists, food and drink manufacturers, and health and social care professionals. The research and development conducted by the consortium also aims to provide ideas and solutions for manufacturers, so they are better able to provide appropriate products,
Ten universities and research institutes together with small- and medium sized enterprises from the food and drink sector will engage in research and technology development activities within the project.
“In spite of the fact that our major diet-related diseases are more common in lower incomers at risk of poverty only limited efforts are made to develop healthier products in the lower price range,” said Capozzi.
“By exploring means to lower the production costs and increasing the knowledge about this particular group of consumers CHANCE will hopefully stimulate development of food products that can make a difference as well as make them available and attractive to people who really need them,” he explained.
To make functional foods available for the thinner wallets the project will explore low cost technologies and ingredients, including the possibility of using by-products rich in fibre resulting from the production of fruit juices, and other derivatives from food processing.
Developing such new food products require technical knowledge. However, equally important is to develop a good understanding of the lifestyle and needs of the people that are at risk of poverty.
Statistics from Eurostat indicate that women and elderly are two groups of special concern, however the CHANCE researchers intend to further clarify which are the major groups at risk of poverty in Europe.
“Once these groups have been identified the questions are: What do they eat? Is the major problem overweight and obesity, or are they unhealthy because of inadequate intakes of micronutrients, such as iron and vitamin B12? ,” he said.
Finally, the project will investigate what the identified risk groups perceive as barriers to healthful eating, as well as what retailers, the food and drink industry, and other actors in the food chain think keeps this particular group away from nutritious foods.
“This will allow food processing partners in CHANCE to develop healthful food products that actually also would end up in their shopping baskets,” said
In Europe, 81 million people are at risk of poverty. Living on the poverty line is not only associated with poor economy but can also bring with it other problems such as nutrition related ill-health.
Research has shown a direct link between income and quality of the diet – with decreasing socio-economic status diets becoming more and more unbalanced. One of the reasons for this, the researchers say, is that low incomers often cannot afford enough nutritious foods.