Families sought for UCC food study

UCC researchers are seeking 40 families from all over Munster to sign up for an international study into how the way food arrives into the home can influence the sustainability of a household.

The research also involves similar numbers of households in Italy, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Food producers and suppliers are also being asked to take part.

“Ideally, we would like families and food producers/suppliers interested in participating to contact us before the end of this month,” says Dr Claire O’Neill, a lecturer in marketing ethics at the Cork University Business School.

“Traditionally, the local corner shop or local supermarket were often the only options available to buy our groceries, but now families can choose from an array of food supply options — online supermarkets, farmers’ markets, food cooperatives, vegetable box schemes, meal ingredient boxes, online butchers and snack-box schemes.

“The question is how do these new platforms affect our food choices and are they helping us to become more sustainable at home?

“The study will be interviewing households about where and how they buy their food, how they transport it, store it, cook it and dispose of any surplus — in other words, we’ll be looking at the whole process from purchase to disposal,” Dr O’Neill explained.

Even if people claim to care about climate change or the environment in general, their behaviours in the home may contradict those views, due in part to the habitual nature of many of the behaviours we engage in day-to-day.

“Moving towards facilitating green behaviour, for example through cleaner alternatives or effective waste collection, may allow progress in line with the urgency that is needed,” she said.

“My research suggests that people adapt well to generally imposed rules such as the plastic bag levy. Recognising the complexity of consumer behaviour, we need to make it necessary and easier for people to be green.”

All participating households will undergo an interview lasting about two hours during May and June 2019 about the food in their household. 

Twenty of the homes will be invited to change their shopping habits to more sustainable ways of food purchase, before being re-interviewed in June 2020.

Food producers and suppliers who participate will receive feedback on the most consumer-friendly ways of sustainable distribution.

“We know very little about how online shopping or food-box deliveries affect the way people use food in the home and what we are looking at is whether certain ways of getting food — for example at your local farmers’ market — makes it easier for a house to be more sustainable,” Dr O’Neill explained.

In-depth interviews will uncover how households use these new food supply platforms and whether they affect food preparation for the family, the means of cooking, storing and eating the food, and food disposal. 

The PLATEFORMS project is part of the European transnational SUSFOOD2 initiative for sustainable food systems research from production to consumption.

Households or food producers interested in participating should contact Dr Claire O’Neill at 086-3727433 or on claireoneill@ucc.ie.

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