By Sachin Wasnik
To date, much of the research on the food environment has focused on traditional food outlets where people can physically purchase food on a daily basis. However, it is critical that future studies take into consideration the rapidly changing nature of the food environment, particularly regarding the increasing use of online food delivery services. The significance of food delivery services and how we access and consume foods today, was highlighted throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
A project initiated by Dr. Cindy Needham, from Deakin University, aims to understand the healthfulness of online food delivery options available across Victoria. The study will also explore whether inequities in the healthfulness of food retail delivery options exist based on rurality and socioeconomic status.
Collecting data from online delivery platforms such as Uber Eats and Menulog posed a real challenge for Cindy’s team at the School of Health and Social Development.
To address this issue, Cindy reached out to Dr Sachin Wasnik, from the digital research team at Intersect, whom she heard about after attending one of Intersect’s presentations at the Deakin Library. Dr Sachin Wasnik was able to implement a software engineering approach to collect the necessary data for this project.
Web data scraping is especially difficult for modern websites such as Uber Eats and Menulog. Dr Cindy Needham being an expert in Public Health and Nutrition, wanted to focus more on her research than on learning web data scraping; thus, she enlisted Sachin’s help.
Together, they were able to collaborate and gather the data requirements of the project, identify data relevant to the research question, and further collect the data in various stages. Sachin also made a few suggestions for the design of the project based on the initial exploration of the data. Overall, his contributions were invaluable in streamlining the web data scraping process.
The data for this project has now been successfully collected, thanks to funding from the Institute of Health Transformation Seed Funding Grant at Deakin University. Sachin remains as part of the team, serving as a Chief Investigator and continues to work in assisting researchers with exploratory data analysis. His ongoing contributions have been crucial to the project’s continued success.