Analysis of receipts to understand the relationship between food access, food purchasing patterns, and obesity in Detroit families with preschool-aged children

This is an ongoing project.

Faculty Researcher: Elizabeth Towner

Contact Details

Elizabeth Towner


Our "Pediatric Obesity and Health Equity Research Lab" focuses on developing interventions targeting obesity reduction in preschoolers from low-income and minority backgrounds. We emphasize community-based participatory research methods and partnering with community organizations on our intervention development work.

The current project is a partnership with the Michigan Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and aims to use a novel methodology to identify food-purchasing patterns that increase obesity risk in preschoolers from low-income backgrounds. Lack of access to healthy foods and low-socioeconomic status increase child obesity risk. Yet, nearly 80% of preschoolers in Detroit who receive WIC services are of a healthy weight. By analyzing food receipt data (all families who participate collect and turn in food receipts for 4 weeks), we hope to identify what food-purchasing patterns among families from low-income backgrounds are associated with healthy weight for preschoolers. These patterns will then be integrated in future preschool obesity interventions for families from low-income backgrounds.

In addition to WIC, Dr. Mark Greenwald in Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences and Alex Hill from the Detroit Health Department are collaborators on this project.

Students can volunteer or register for directed study credit if appropriate for your department.

Highly motivated and productive students may have the opportunity to develop a poster presentation for a local or national conference.

If you are interested, please email Dr. Towner (
1) your transcripts
2) your CV/resume including two references that we can contact
3) brief description of career goals and how working in this lab will help you achieve them
4) your availability/class schedule


1) Minimum of 3.5 cumulative GPA
2) B or better in at least 3 social, behavioral, public health, or health sciences courses
3) Preference will be given to students who have completed research methods and/or statistical
methods courses
4) Commit to at least 6 hours per week for 2 semesters
5) Reliable and punctual
6) Can work both independently and as a team
7) Excellent communication skills

Project Timeline

The project will start September, 2018 and continue until completed. We currently have complete data for 30 families and will be launching a second wave of data collection in the fall.


Students will be trained and work with other students and/or research assistants to code and enter receipt data into SPSS. Students will also analyze data (mentoring provided as warranted).

Students are expected to commit at least 6 hours per week towards the project. All work is completed on site (iBio building).

Project-related Tags

Last Updated

August 9, 2018