Cooking for health: Taking advantage of local welfare kitchens to provide healthy diets for low income families in Peru, in order to contribute to the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases

Welfare kitchens are the perfect setting for the implementation of well-designed and culturally sensitive interventions aimed at promoting healthy eating habits and reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases among the poorest residents of Lima.


The aim is to encourage the adoption of healthy eating habits among low income households of urban communities who act as suppliers and/or consumers of Lima’s welfare kitchens.


The project involved three consecutive research activities: (1) A qualitative study designed to provide information regarding the functioning of welfare kitchens and explore the possibilities for promoting healthier eating. Four one-week observations were carried out and 68 interviews were conducted with cooks, members and non-members of four welfare kitchens, as well as with fruit and vegetable vendors. (2) A discreet choice experiment designed to explore the preferences of 432 users of 48 welfare kitchens when selecting their meals, assessing their willingness to purchase healthier meals. (3) An intervention to encourage the sale and consumption of fruit and salads in welfare kitchens.

This intervention was carried out in twelve welfare kitchens in Lima, six in the district of San Juan de Miraflores and six in Cercado de Lima. In each district two welfare kitchens sold fruit, two sold salads and two did not modify their menus. Over a period of six weeks, the cooks from the participating kitchens received between four and six training sessions on general nutrition and the properties of fruits and vegetables, hygiene, sales and leadership, and the preparation of salads. After this period the participating welfare kitchens offered fruit or salads as part of the daily menu, as part of the nine week intervention. The sale of fruit and salads was preceded by a short promotional campaign to encourage their consumption. A detailed record of sold meals was kept throughout the intervention.

Preliminary results

The qualitative study and the discreet choice experiment provided detailed information regarding the dynamics of welfare kitchens, the preferences of members and consumers, and the opportunities and barriers for the intervention stage.

The twelve participant welfare kitchens demonstrated their commitment and the need to overcome barriers imposed by their limited resources. During the nine weeks of the intervention, 6853 portions of fruit and 2653 120 grams of salad were sold in eight kitchens, making a total of 9506 portions of sold fruit and salad.

A few weeks after the intervention, the majority of the kitchens involved (seven out of eight), continued to sell fruit or salads, using their own resources. Some local institutions who work with the participating kitchens expressed their interest in learning more about the project and extending it to other kitchens.


Francisco Diez Canseco


Districts of San Juan de Miraflores and Cercado de Lima, Peru

Districts of San Juan de Miraflores and Cercado de Lima, Peru


International Development Research Centre (IDRC) . 


2012 – 2014

Research team

Jaime Miranda, MD, MSc, PhD, FFPH, Francisco Diez Canseco, BA, MPH, Antonio Bernabe-Ortiz, MD, MPH. Carla Martínez, BA, Lizzete Najarro, BA, Rocío Gálvez BA , Lorena Saavedra BA,  José Alfredo Zavala Loayza, MD, MSc.

Contributors: Antonio J. Trujillo,  MPP, PhD, Christine Buttorff, BS, PhDc, ( Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Estados Unidos).