Bud­get, not knowl­edge, fu­els poor choices: Study

Pref­er­ences for poorer Cana­di­ans based on money

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - Television & Food - Genna Buck Metro canada

It’s a hard ques­tion to an­swer. It’s a hard ques­tion to even ask. Why do peo­ple who have less money and lower ed­u­ca­tion tend to choose foods that are bad for them?

Ac­cord­ing to new Cana­dian re­search, it’s not that they don’t know bet­ter.

Pub­lic-health pushes, in the me­dia and in schools, to get us to make health­ier food choices seem to be sink­ing in, ex­plains Univer­sity of Toronto so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor Shyon Bau­mann, co- au­thor of a new pa­per in the journal Con­sumer Be­hav­iour.

The study, which con­sisted of in-depth in­ter­views with 105 di­verse Cana­dian fam­i­lies from across the coun­try, shows peo­ple of low so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus (based on their in­come, ed­u­ca­tion level and oc­cu­pa­tion) do have dif­fer­ent food pref­er­ences than peo­ple who are bet­ter off.

How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of par­tic­i­pants in the study, no mat­ter their so­cial group, told in­ter­view­ers that if money were no ob­ject, they’d pre­fer to eat healthy foods, es­pe­cially more fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles.

“There’s de­bate about the rea­sons peo­ple with low eco­nomic re­sources make (food) choices that are seen as bad choices,” Bau­mann said. “It’s not be­cause low-in­come, low-ed­u­ca­tion peo­ple don’t know what foods are nu­tri­tious and healthy, or that they would ben­e­fit from eat­ing them, or even that they wouldn’t en­joy them.”

It’s pri­mar­ily money — not a lack of knowl­edge — driv­ing their de­ci­sions, he said.

“The pol­icy im­pli­ca­tion is not that we should ed­u­cate more, though we shouldn’t stop,” Bau­mann said. “It’s re­ally im­por­tant that healthy food is af­ford­able to peo­ple, whether that’s sub­si­diz­ing or pro­vid­ing re­sources.”

There are some ways to help peo­ple over­come the bar­ri­ers to try­ing new, healthy foods, said Fiona Yeu­dall, di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Stud­ies in Food Se­cu­rity at Ry­er­son Univer­sity.

She men­tioned pub­lic-health pro­grams that give peo­ple a chance to try cook­ing some­thing new in a low-stakes, group set­ting like a com­mu­nity kitchen.

Por­tion SIZES

Other bar­ri­ers in­clude avail­abil­ity of food in the neigh­bour­hood, ac­cess to cup­board space at home, and how much time busy, low-wage work­ers have to prepare food, she added.

But lit­tle is known about th­ese and other drivers of peo­ple’s food choices, which is why this kind of re­search is valu­able, she said. And it comes just as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment works to put to­gether a na­tional food pol­icy.

“The reg­u­lar play­ers are at the ta­ble: Health char­i­ties, health pro­fes­sions, in­dus­try. That’s the pol­icy round ta­ble. Well, what about an eater’s round ta­ble? Who’s speak­ing for peo­ple who eat?” she said.


Pub­lic-health pushes, in the me­dia and in schools, to get us to make health­ier food choices seem to be sink­ing in, says a univer­sity so­ci­ol­ogy pro­fes­sor.

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