04 Jun Food Food Spending by Lower Economic Groups Has Greater Environmental Impact
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Joe F. Bozeman III, MS, CEM, Ph.D. Candidate
Chair, Gordon Research Seminar (Industrial Ecology)
University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)
Institute for Environmental Science and Policy
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: This study is actually a part of my dissertation which explores how climate change, human health, and other socioecological factors can be used to manage food-energy-water impacts. After establishing environmental impact and climate change adaptation implications of food consumption across major U.S. demographic groups in a previous study, my colleagues and I decided it would be interesting to investigate how food spending and household income correlate with food-consumption environmental impacts. Our efforts led to the development of a novel quantitative metric (i.e., food-consumption impact per dollar spent [FCI$]) which encompasses land, water, and greenhouse gas emission impacts of basic foods; the amount spent on food; and socioeconomic status. All major food groups are included in this study.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: We think our main findings are insightful. We found that Latinx and black households tend to have the highest environmental impacts for every dollar spent on food (FCI$) compared to white households in the U.S. This means that if a Latinx and white household spent the same amount of money on food then the Latinx household would impact the environment the most. However, our findings also show that white households tend to have more overall household income, tend to spend the most on food overall, and spend the smallest proportion of their overall income on food. In other words, white households tend to have the greatest food spending power and overall impact on the environment compared to Latinx and black households.
Our study findings suggest that lower household income within Latinx and black households not only create circumstances where these households tend to spend higher proportions of their overall income on food, but also facilitate feelings of food insecurity and scarcity. These feelings are linked to the purchase of cheaper, energy-dense foods, such as common grains and certain protein items (e.g., cereals, snack food, and chicken), which can be more environmentally-intense and unhealthy compared to more expensive fresh fruits and vegetables.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: I hope that readers gain an appreciation for the differences in food spending patterns and food access of major demographics within the U.S. and how these factors impact our physical environment through land, water, and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, I hope that readers will ‘humanize’ these statistics and numbers, so to speak, such that it engenders empathy for each demographic group’s unique challenges.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: I am very excited about how this study could facilitate future research efforts that may yield novel insights. Specifically, we recommend that the field explore demographic food intake trends over time while identifying what other socioecological factors may be influential. We also hope that the field uses this study to strengthen future research regarding the quantification of environmental impacts, climate change, and human health outcomes with demographic and/or socioeconomic specificity.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: Part of what drives me as a researcher is unearthing findings that are not just intriguing but also are meaningful to our day-to-day lives. In my opinion, ineffectively addressing social dynamics – along the lines of race, socioeconomics, and intergroup relations – and climate change adaptation measures are two of the most important challenges our society faces today. If we do not expedite and improve our efforts in this regard, we and the generations to come may suffer adverse societal and human health outcomes that could have been mitigated or avoided.
Distinguishing Environmental Impacts of Household Food-Spending Patterns Among U.S. Demographic Groups
Joe F. Bozeman III, Weslynne S. Ashton, and Thomas L. Theis
Environmental Engineering Science 0 0:0
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