Salience in Istanbul

One of the easiest ways to promote higher consumption of healthier foods is to increase the visibility, or salience, of those foods.  Placing vegetables under brighter lights and in easy to reach locations along a school buffet line leads children to eat more of those healthy items and less of the cookies placed in the dark obscure locations. Putting fruit in a fruit bowl and cookies in the cupboard at home produces a similar effect. The salience of fruits and vegetables can often lead to a meaningful increase in their consumption.

With that in mind, take a look at Istanbul:


These fruit and vegetable stands, or Manavs, are practically everywhere and if they are not, then you can expect that they are no more then a 5 minute walk away. Here are a few ways I think these Manavs lead to higher consumption of fruits and veggies:


1. City Density of Manavs

Since Manavs are everywhere it means that I always have a second chance to buy what I wanted. Sometimes I stop at a store and think, that'd be nice to buy, but then I leave empty handed because I decide I don't need it at the moment or I'm late to see a friend. But here, I see it again just 60 seconds later. This time, I choose to buy it.

2. Proximity to Sidewalk


Manavs are situated along the sidewalk. I don't have to go inside and waste unnecessary time which means there is one less barrier between me and my fruit.


3. Well Lit at Night


Manavs are well lit at night, making them beacons of fresh fruits and vegetables. They appear glorified with brilliant hues as if they were the finest candy around. And of course, what is well lit is easier to see and therefore purchase.


4. Delivery


Like I said, Manavs stay open really late. And they deliver. That is what those numbers on the top of their signs are for. If I want a snack at 11pm, I just call up my local Manav and they will run it over at no extra cost for the delivery. Another barrier to eating delicious fruit removed.


5. It's Affordable


It's cheap. What would cost $20 usd in Boston is worth $2 usd in Istanbul. And that is not just because of the conversion rate. It's cheap for locals as well. Where a beer costs them about 6 lira, a kilo of cherries cost 4 lira, a clearly better value.


In sum

Of course the system is not perfect. Farmers are forced into selling their produce rapidly at cheap prices due to a rush caused by the insurmountable debts imposed on them by the government. The fruit and vegetable vendors exploit the situation by haggling the farmers even lower and then turn around to make the profits in the city. The constant grind of human rights ebbs on as farmers begin to rally together. The next few years for farmers in Turkey may be something to watch as this may effect how these Manavs function and subsequently people's eating behaviors.

For the time being, however, fruits and vegetables are being eaten like candy.