Using food diaries within a citizen agency framework
Food diaries are a well-established methodology within nutrition studies to gather information about people’s diets. When participants are responsible for collecting their own data they can have a greater degree of ownership and agency. The Sustainable Diets for All (SD4All) programme aimed to strengthen capacity of civil society organisations and citizens to influence policy, shape local food systems and advocate for their own priorities in pursuit of sustainable diets. As part of this programme we explored how self-reported food diaries could be used within a citizen agency and advocacy framework and enable poorer citizens to lobby more effectively to change their food systems.
Drawing on SD4All studies in Jember, Indonesia and Fort Portal, Uganda, this paper reflects on the experiences of using food diaries to generate dietary data with citizens, and the usefulness of this data for advocacy. We also highlight the importance of dietary data for effective policymaking and interventions related to food systems and nutrition.
We conclude that this type of dietary survey method could be a useful tool for providing detailed dietary information at low cost, and for strengthening citizen agency and advocacy within food systems. This could be done by empowering citizens themselves to change their diets through the research process, and, indirectly, through the lobbying activities of CSOs who work with them. Finally, we suggest some adaptations and improvements to the method and make recommendations for future research.