Reported food insecurity reached 17%, matching the rate last reached in March 2022, according to the June Consumer Food Insights report. The new report also includes changes in consumer spending on food as a result of a hypothetical recession and artificial intelligence sentiments.
The survey-based report from Purdue University’s Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability assesses food spending, consumer satisfaction and value, support for agricultural and food policies, and trust in information sources. Purdue experts conducted and evaluated the survey, which included 1,200 consumers across the US
“Overall, there continues to be a similar narrative of extended upward pressure on food prices as we try to determine whether this pressure has led to a point where consumers are struggling to buy food they want,” said Jayson Lusk, the head. and Distinguished Professor of Agricultural Economics at Purdue, who heads the center.
“The 17% rate of food insecurity is up from 14% just two months ago, which is not necessarily far outside the normal range we measure. However, this increase may be partly given the amount of external pressures exerted on more vulnerable consumers.” said Lusk.
He noted that the pandemic-related boosts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ended in March. The increase in uncertainty could be a lag from households adjusting to this policy change.
When there is a recession, consumers report that they cut back on steak, pork and eating out. These results are consistent with what Lusk expects to happen when income falls.
“Discretionary spending on eating out comes first when consumers have to deal with a recession. Then people cut back on more expensive items that they can easily replace in their meals. Steak and bacon, for example,” Lusk said. “It’s interesting to see that the things that have a lot of ‘unused’ parts are also the things that get cut the most because a lot of people choose to leave them.”
Additional key results include:
- Reported food spending rose 2.1% from last June, which was lower than the government’s 6.7% estimate of food inflation.
- Households earning less than $50,000 per year buy groceries online at a higher rate than other households.
- The report says the pandemic has opened up online options to SNAP recipients, which apparently remains an important tool for a variety of shoppers.
- Households earning more than $100,000 per year were at greater risk, reflected in a higher willingness to eat unwashed fruit and undercooked meat.
- Consumers mostly have positive or neutral feelings about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the food and agriculture sector.
“Questions of artificial intelligence are still speculative because there are no known examples of AI being applied to the entire food system,” said Sam Polzin, a food and agriculture survey scientist for the center and co-author of the report. “People don’t have enough information about AI to have informed positions, as seen in many areas of indifference.”
Surprisingly to Polzin, 50% of consumers said they are OK with AI helping them make food choices, which are generally considered a personal decision. “This proportion may indicate how willing people are to make the ‘best’ choices,” Polzin said.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual inflation for food-at-home fell below inflation for food-away-from-home (FAFH) this spring, he said. This begs the question: Will consumers continue to spend at faster prices on food out?
“Higher incomes have driven a larger share of the increase in FAFH spending and there is no clear reason for slowing down. We will watch if two different patterns emerge where higher incomes households continue to grow while low-income households may be forced to retreat,” said Polzin.
The report’s findings on eating habits are consistent with other research showing that consumers with higher incomes are at higher risk than those with lower incomes. “The fact that higher incomes reported eating unwashed fruits, undercooked meat and raw dough more often could indicate this risk,” said Polzin.
Other reported eating behaviors were expected to be fair. High-income households, for example, are more likely to choose premium local and organic products than low-income households. They also often have more resources to track and understand food labeling or follow recycling and composting practices.
Lusk further discussed the report on his blog.
Provided by Purdue University
Citation: Food insecurity rate hits 17% for second time in 18 months (2023, July 13) retrieved on 13 July 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-07-food-insecurity -months.html
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