The COVID19 pandemic affected American households in countless ways, but in accordance with researchers, probably the most tangible shifts are occurring in the meals system.
A variety of supply chain issues, tighter budgets, concern about shopping in public areas spaces, and increases in at-home preparation has resulted in a greater fascination with sourcing food locally, however the question remains just how long that interest can last. A team of researchers from Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education conducted a report to discover.
Their results, recently published in the journal Agribusiness, indicate the boon to local food producers could be short-lived, particularly if individuals are feeling a feeling of anxiety.
“Through the pandemic, food consumption changed therefore did the sourcing of this food,” said Martina Vecchi, assistant professor of agricultural economics at Penn State and lead author on the analysis. “Many people started exploring various ways of buying food and we wished to understand the determining factors within their decisions.”
Utilizing an paid survey, the researchers asked 1,650 participants to think about the pandemic and their willingness to get food locally. Their results claim that taking into consideration the pandemic increased anxiety, reduced a feeling of community belonging, and lowered the purchase price premiums that respondents were ready to purchase local fruits, vegetables and meat.
“The primary mechanism that drives the decreased willingness to cover locally produced food is anxiety,” Vecchi said. “We didn’t expect this, but managing anxiety may be probably the most considerations we are able to do to safeguard general health have there been to be another health crisis.”
The researchers began the survey by inducing or “priming” a subset of participants to take into account the impact of the pandemic on either their personal life, finances and health or on the neighborhood and its own members. They discovered that both prompts or “primes” increased participants’ degrees of anxiety, slightly reduced their sense of community, and significantly decreased the hypothetical price premium participants were ready to purchase local food.
“We considered those because the two mechanisms which could influence the willingness to get this kind of product: anxiety and sense of community,” Vecchi said. “We assumed that as people got more anxious due to the pandemic, they might buy more local food since they thought it had been safer. We also thought it could strengthen their sense of community and would therefore reflect an increased willingness to cover local food.”
The outcomes show a trend in the contrary direction. As anxiety increased, sense of community decreased. Vecchi explains that the rise in local food sales through the pandemic may simply be considered a byproduct of supply chain issues and fears about supermarkets, not just a reflection of permanent changes in consumer behavior.
“It generally does not appear that their actual willingness to purchase local food was higher,” Vecchi said. “Sure, these were spending money on local food, because they felt that has been the safest option, but it isn’t that their actual willingness to cover it had been higher.”
The researchers explained that while local food outlets received a lot more attention from consumers due to the pandemic, those in the neighborhood food community shouldn’t expect the elevated interest to keep.
“My advice to policymakers and farmers would be to try and cope with consumers’ anxiety and their sense of community first,” Vecchi said. “We need to solve for that when you want to sustain a captivating local food economy.”
Along with Vecchi, the study team includes Edward Jaenicke and Claudia Schmidt of Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology and Education.
More info: Martina Vecchi et al, Local food in times of crisis: The impact of COVID19 and two reinforcing primes, Agribusiness (2022). DOI: 10.1002/agr.21754
Citation: Local food boon spurred by pandemic could be short-lived, new research reports (2022, September 6) retrieved 7 September 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-09-local-food-boon-spurred-pandemic.html
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