University of Göttingen: Food Consumption during Covid-19: regional and sustainable please!

For the third time during the pandemic, researchers at the University of Göttingen have surveyed consumers in Germany. Participants filled in questionnaires about their shopping, eating and cooking behaviour, as well as their perception of the resilience of food systems during the coronavirus pandemic. The results confirm the main findings of the first two surveys: sustainability is increasingly important to many people when buying food, and they prefer homegrown farm produce. The current study also reflects new developments, such as the increased sense of stress among young people. The results of the third survey have been published in a discussion paper at the University of Göttingen’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development.

For the data collection, the same people completed online surveys in April, June and November 2020. The participants are largely representative of the population in Germany in terms of age, gender, education and regional distribution. The research team analysed the data from 422 respondents who took part in all three surveys.

When pubs and bars closed again, as part of the measures to curb the pandemic in November, a relatively large proportion of people accepted this. However, the closure of cafés and restaurants was viewed more critically. “Overall, there is a growing divide in attitudes towards the government’s approach. The proportions of people who consider the government’s measures to be either excessive or insufficient increased simultaneously,” says first author Dr Gesa Busch, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Development at the University of Göttingen.

In terms of purchasing behaviour, it is clear that in November the following issues became more important: working conditions for those producing the food products; protection of animals, nature and species; the regionality of products; and how healthy the food is. “The results confirm that sustainability issues are very important even in times of crisis and that they are becoming even more important for some parts of the population,” explains Professor Achim Spiller, Professor of Marketing for Food and Agricultural Products.

Although the situation regarding the pandemic grew more serious in November, fewer people were worried about possible food shortages – the concern had come about due to partly empty supermarket shelves at the beginning of the pandemic. Fewer and fewer respondents feared food shortages due to the organisation of the food system. At the same time as confidence returned, more people expressed their support of global food systems – a rather sudden increase compared to the two previous surveys. Overall, however, a much larger proportion of respondents have confidence in the resilience of regional food systems. This goes hand-in-hand with an increased appreciation of the importance of agriculture.

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