For many of us, the coronavirus pandemic has changed our relationship with food, including the way we eat, what we eat and more. The 15th Annual Food & Health Survey by the International Food Information Council (IFIC), released today, highlights some of these changes, as well as how attitudes towards healthy eating and American diets have changed since 2010. The full study can be found here.
1,011 Americans between the ages of 18 and 80 completed an online survey between April 8 and April 16, 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions covered a range of topics, including health and diet, food components, food production, food safety, how food and health behaviors have changed in the past decade, and how health monitoring devices and apps impact habits. The survey took participants approximately 23 minutes to complete and results were weighted by age, education, gender, race, ethnicity and region to reflect the American population (according to the 2019 Current Population Survey).
According to the 2020 Food & Health Survey, 85% of people have altered their food habits as a result of the pandemic, with cooking at home more being the top reported change (selected by 60% of respondents). Snacking more (32%), washing fresh produce more (30%), and thinking about food more than usual (27%) were also popular responses. 41% of respondents under 35 said they are snacking more than normal (compared to 26% of respondents age 50+). Additionally, 41% of parents with children under 18 are snacking more (versus 29% without children).
“One group of people that clearly jumped out this year is parents of children under 18,” Ali Webster, PhD, RD and director of research and nutrition communications at IFIC, told me. “At a point in time where kids are home from school, child care routines are upended and social support networks have shrunk, parents of younger children are clearly managing the stresses of the pandemic differently than those without children. These stressors may be manifesting in their approach to food. Parents are snacking more, are more likely to say that they eat when they’re emotional, and they have a more pessimistic perspective on how American diets may change in the upcoming decade, compared to people without children.”
Survey results also revealed that online grocery shopping is up and in-person shopping is down, but in general overall shopping patterns have remained stable. 33% of respondents reported shopping for groceries online at least once a month (compared to 27% of respondents in 2019), with 11% online grocery shopping at least once a week. The percentage of people making trips to the grocery store multiple times a week has dropped from 28% in 2019 to 20% in 2020. 20% of consumers with children less than 18 years old reported that they grocery shop online at least once a week (versus 8% of consumers without children younger than 18). Additionally, 67% of respondents in very good health reported grocery shopping in person at least once a week (compared to 50% of respondents in fair or poor health).
“The 2020 Food & Health Survey serves as a temperature check on how American consumers were thinking about and making decisions around food and nutrition in the midst of a global pandemic,” Webster said. “This is the first time in recent history that nearly everyone in the world has experienced some disruption to their lives, and for most these changes impacted the way we eat.
“These results provide information on how quickly some things can change when it comes to our decisions around food—how we obtain food, how often we eat, and what we eat. At the same time, they demonstrate that even in a global health crisis, beliefs and behaviors in some aspects remain constant. The report also highlights how our perspectives on health, wellbeing and trends as they relate to food have shifted over the past decade.”