Food Environments and Their Influence on Food Choices: A Case Study in Informal Settlements in Nairobi, Kenya

Shauna M. Downs, Elizabeth L. Fox, Vincent Mutuku, Zacharia Muindi, Tasneem Fatima, Irena Pavlovic, Sana Husain, Minna Sabbahi, Simon Kimenju, Selena Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The food environments that people have access to shape their food choices. The purpose of this study was to use mixed methods to characterize the external food environment in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya and to examine the individual factors that influence the way in which women interact with those environments to make food choices. We used a combination of food environment assessments (vendor mapping, collection of food prices, food quality assessments) and five focus group discussions with women (n = 26) in four villages within two informal settlements in Nairobi (Mukuru and Kibera) to better understand the drivers of food choice. We found a large number (n = 1163) of vendors selling a variety of food within the settlements. The highest number of vendors were selling fruits and/or vegetables; however, there was limited diversity of fruits available. Animal-source foods were considered relatively expensive as compared to plant-based foods, including prepared fried snacks. We found that the way women interacted with their food environments was influenced by individual factors such as income, time, convenience, and preferences. Our findings suggest that interventions targeting both the external food environment as well as individual factors such as income will be necessary to support healthy diets among low-income populations living in informal settlements in Kenya.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2571
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


  • Kenya
  • diet quality
  • food choice
  • food environment
  • informal settlements


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