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Social Justice and the Obesity Epidemic: Consumers ID Inequities

Social justice has moved to the forefront in our country and the evolution can be felt in food industry movements. A recent Illuminate™ report from The Center for Food Integrity reveals six emerging topics driving consumer expectations for the food chain and growing concern regarding the obesity epidemic and marginalized communities is among them. Here are a few highlights from the report.

Driving the Conversation

Digital ethnography research, conducted for CFI by MotivBase, studied nearly 500,000  individuals. The results show the 42 million Americans currently engaged online regarding social justice and food value activism and believe that what they buy can drive positive change. They want to prove they’re doing their part in a variety of ways: donating, volunteering, raising awareness.

What do these passionate people fear? Powerlessness. They worry that major corporations have too much power over who can access healthy food. In addition, they value creativity – using unconventional thoughts and ideas to identify and leverage solutions for systemic problems.

These consumers are between the ages of 18 and 44, educated (having attended college/university) and middle-to-upper class.

Obesity in Marginalized Communities   

The studied conversations reveal consumer concern that the obesity epidemic in the U.S. disproportionately affects marginalized and minority communities. They believe this phenomenon is not due to lifestyle or cultural factors, but rather is a systemic problem. Specifically:

  • Consumers recognize the obesity epidemic as a symptom of poverty and poor food access.
  • They worry the obesity epidemic causes a domino effect because these communities often lack access to affordable healthcare.
  • They see the sugar industry and, in particular, the producers of sugary sodas, as sharing a large portion of the blame.
  • But they also see fatphobia (fat shaming) and healthy eating narratives as participating in anti-black notions of a healthy body.

The food chain must take notice in that the research shows 33.6 million people are engaged on the topic of obesity and social justice, and that audience is expected to grow 28 percent to 43.1 million in the next one to two years.

Conversations and relevancy around each of the six topics analyzed in the study are increasing at different rates and important issues for the food industry to consider. While none of the topics is considered “mainstream” quite yet, the social justice and food movement is growing. CFI members can access the full report via the CFI Member Portal.

Those in food and agriculture can take satisfaction in knowing that they provide food for people around the world, but the research clearly points to challenges facing the food system in providing everyone adequate and fair access. Addressing these areas of concern can empower the food system to fulfill its greater purpose.

For more information on Illuminate™ Digital Cultural Insights reports, and opportunities for tailored research and strategic consultation, contact CFI Executive Director Terry Fleck.