Survey: COVID-19 impacts food and food buying habits


Survey: COVID-19 impacts food and food buying habits

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way consumers shop for and eat food, according to the annual Food and Health Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC).

Ali Webster, director of research and nutrition communications with the IFIC, says it’s important to keep in mind the survey was conducted in April as food and food buying habits were changing rapidly because of COVID-19.

“Eighty-five percent of the people that we surveyed said that they had changed their behavior in some respect,” she says. “Cooking at home more was by far and away the biggest change that most people made— we saw that 60 percent of people we surveyed said they were doing more cooking at home. It was kind of a necessity for a lot of people with restaurants being closed, hesitancy around takeout or delivery, and for some people the only option was cooking at home.”

Survey respondents also said they were snacking more, washing fresh produce more often, and thinking about food more than usual. 

She says it’s hard to say if these impacts of the pandemic are temporary or will continue.

“We don’t know when people are going to be returning to their workplaces and we don’t know how many people will continue to work at home,” she says. “I think people’s professional environment really does matter to a big degree in terms of how we are approaching what we’re eating and how we’re getting food so that’s something that remains to be seen.”

The coronavirus pandemic has also altered food safety concerns. Overall confidence in the safety of the US food supply was unchanged, but food handling and preparation related to the coronavirus risk are at the top of the list of food safety concerns. About half of surveyed consumers says they are somewhat concerned about food prepared outside their homes.

The survey also examined issues related to health and diet, food production, and how food and health behaviors have changed in the past decade.

This is the 15th consecutive year IFIC has examined consumer perceptions, beliefs, and behaviors around food and nutrition. More than 1,000 Americans ages 18-80 participated in the online survey. It was conducted April 8-16 and results were weighted by age, education, race and ethnicity, and region to ensure they were reflective of the population.

Audio: Ali Webster

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