20 comfort food college students consume the most when stressed, bored, sad or happy

Today I’m playing with a fun Kaggle dataset based on food preference survey. One particular question that caught my attention is about comfort food and the reasons for consuming it.

Understanding comfort food preferences has several use cases: grocery stores and cafeterias could run targeted marketing to stock up certain food during exam periods or cold seasons; seminar groups and counselling centers could also offer preferred snacks to boost happiness and wellbeing.

Ice-cream, pizza and chips are the most consumed comfort food

In order to understand what are the top comfort food, I first parsed the free text in R, converted all to lowercase, removed punctuations, converted synonyms, trimmed blank spaces and split out individual food items based on separators.

The top comfort food are:

  • ice-cream
  • pizza
  • chips
  • chocolate
  • cookie

Then I drew clustered circle of these food items based on mood using RAWGraphs.

Stress and boredom drive comfort food consumption

Top 20 comfort food by mood

Some observations:

  • same comfort food can be consumed in different moods
  • stress and boredom are the most common cause of comfort food consumption among college students

Next I convert number of mentions into percentages to figure out which food is consumed more in a particular mood.

Composition of food by mood

We can observe:

  • ice cream is consumed when stressed, bored, sad, but also on happy days
  • chocolate is used as a mood booster
  • pizza as a comfort food can be consumed for no particular reason
  • soup, pasta and cake are staples during cold weather

Given it’s a rather small dataset, I shall refrain from making generalized conclusion. There’s also cultural differences in comfort food as cuisines vary country-to-country, but since the survey is conducted in just one US college, the result is rather homogenous.

This is #day19 of my #100dayprojects on data science and visual storytelling. Full code on my github. Thanks for reading and feedbacks are welcomed.