Project in Chile

Food Environment and Diet During the COVID-19 Pandemic

University of Michigan investigator(s) and unit


International colleague(s) name and unit

Camila Corvalan, PhD and Marcela Reyes, PhD, Public Nutrition Unit, Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA), University of Chile


The project aims to characterize aspects of the food environment, and the effect on feeding practices, diet, and physical activity in populations in different stages of the life cycle (i.e. childhood, adolescence, pregnancy and adulthood) from Santiago, Chile during the pandemic of COVID-19. The specific research question of the project will be agreed upon between the fellow and the researchers.


The Center for Research in Food Environments and Nutrition-Related Chronic Diseases (CIAPEC) at INTA, University of Chile is looking to contribute to the prevention of obesity and non-communicable diseases with a focus on equity and life course. During the last 10-15 years, we have been working on characterizing different aspects of the food environment (i.e. food composition and labeling, food marketing, food availability, among others), along with longitudinal assessments of feeding practices, diet and weight status among populations in different stages of the life cycle (i.e. infancy, adiposity rebound, adolescence, pregnancy and adulthood). Data collection has continued during the last year, which has been characterized by important challenges from the social, sanitary and economic aspects, given the COVID-19 pandemic. It is expected that the current situation impacts in families' income and mental health, which could further affect feeding practices, diet, and physical activity. This situation may differ according to age, gender or other sociodemographic characteristics of the population. Furthermore, this situation occurs in the context of the recent implementation of a set of regulations aimed to prevent childhood obesity through the improvement of the food environment (i.e. food labeling, marketing, availability, and provision). Therefore, we have the opportunity to study how the pandemic affects mental health, diet, and physical activity, all of which are key factors for health/illness trajectories and we can understand whether an obesity prevention policy may have an influence in the current situation.

Study design and methods

Participants data regarding mental health, food, diet, and physical activity are being collected longitudinally during three periods throughout the pandemic (Jul-Sept 2020; Nov 2020-Jan 2021; and Mar-Jun 2021). The three cohort studies include: 800 ten year old children and their mothers; 800 eighteen year old adolescents and their mothers; and 800 pregnant women. For most of them, pre-pandemic data are also available regarding sociodemographic, mental health, diet, weight status, physical activity, perception, and use of an obesity-prevention policy, among others. During the pandemic, data collection has been online or by phone, using different surveys for characterizing mental health, food insecurity, diet, and other aspects. We are currently initiating the second wave of data collection. In the case of children and adolescents, basic data are available for evaluation changes during the pandemic period, and thus longitudinal analyses can be performed.

Anticipated activities on project

  1. Statistical analyses comparing data collected during the pandemic and the pre-pandemic period or associating diet assessment with different aspects of food environment, mental health, and weight status.
  2. Interpretation of the results according to the rationale, what is known in the field, and public policy implications.
  3. Communication of results (to participants, health authorities, or the scientific community).

Techniques/methods trainee(s) should become familiar with in advance

  1. Data management
  2. Multivariable analyses
  3. Familiarity with dietary data (preferable)
  4. Longitudinal analyses (preferable) 

Give the complexity of the data and analyses, a postgraduate student is needed for this project

Suggested readings

  • Obes Rev. 2019 Mar; 20(3); 367-374. doi: 10.1111/obr.12802.
  • Public Health Nutr. 2019 Oct; 22(15):2803-2812. doi 10.1017/S1368980019000971.
  • Nutrients. 2020 May 28; 12(6):1583. doi: 10.3390/nu12061583. PMID: 32481594.
  • Obesity (Silver Spring). 2020 Nov; 28(11):2056-2063. doi 10.1002/oby.22996.
  • Nutrients. 2020 Jun 17; 12(6): 1807. doi: 10.3390/nu12061807.