2017 New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research

Maya Vadiveloo, Ph.D.
University of Rhode Island

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research awarded eight grants to the 2017 New Innovators in Food and Agriculture Research recipients. These awardees will receive a total of $4.8 million over five years. The New Innovator in Food and Agriculture Research award is designed to provide the early investment needed to launch new faculty members into successful scientific careers in food and agriculture. Learn more about the FFAR New Innovators.

Research Project: Can Targeted Food Incentives be used to Improve Dietary Quality?

Maya Vadiveloo (left), Ph.D., mentors students in her lab.

Food companies and grocery stores inundate us with targeted offers, which often encourage us to buy foods that are less healthful. Despite consistent marketing research that shows that targeted incentives cost-effectively change purchasing behavior, nutrition advocates have not adopted targeting practices for improving dietary quality and health outcomes. Dr. Vadiveloo and a transdisciplinary team in marketing (Dr. Stephen Atlas) and biostatistics (Dr. Ashley Buchanan) will investigate the effect of targeting food incentives based on people’s past food purchases in an effort to improve the dietary quality of those food purchases. Similar to existing targeting strategies, they will use insights from behavioral theory and from shoppers’ purchasing data to allocate incentives for healthier products. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, study participants will receive different incentives for healthier foods that are most likely to improve their diet.  

This research aims to: 1) understand whether targeting can increase the adoption of healthier food patterns, 2) understand whether allocating targeted incentives can be cost-effective toward improving health, and 3) consider whether such approaches can be adopted on a population-scale to help people make healthier food decisions.

About Maya Vadiveloo, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, University of Rhode Island

Maya Vadiveloo, Ph.D., RD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at the University of Rhode Island.  She is a nutritional epidemiologist and registered dietitian, and her research focuses on dietary assessment methods and identifying and understanding factors that improve population-level dietary quality, obesity and obesity-related outcomes.  Dr. Vadiveloo directs the Big Data and Eating Decisions (Byte) lab, which draws insights from nutritional epidemiology, consumer behavior, and behavioral economics to conduct policy-relevant population health research.  

Dr. Vadiveloo completed her postdoctoral work at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the Department of Nutrition, earned her Ph.D. in Nutrition from New York University, her M.S. in Nutrition from Boston University, and her B.A. in Human Biology from Brown University.

You can learn more about the lab’s current research on the website: http://web.uri.edu/bytelab/