Challenges and Potential of Interdisciplinarity in the Study of Healthy and Sustainable Food Consumption
1University of Geneva, Switzerland; 2Quantis International, Switzerland
This paper explores the difficulties that arise when taking an interdisciplinary approach to healthy and sustainable food consumption. Trying to understand food practices towards the normative goal of supporting transitions to healthier and more sustainable diets involves not only deciphering consumption practices and what supports them, but also defining a 'direction of travel' as to what and how we should eat. For a Swiss national research project on healthy and sustainable food consumption, we brought environmental and health impact assessment together with social practice theory, to understand how 'healthy and sustainable' Swiss diets could look like, taking into account dominant food prescriptions and actual food practices, as well as consumers and stakeholders concerns. This interdisciplinary collaboration did not come without challenges. We will explore three of them: engaging in a pedagogical effort, working with ambiguous categories, and putting disciplinary baggage aside. We will also present the most important findings that came out of our collaboration in relation to dominant food prescriptions in Switzerland, and how they can be used to develop policy aiming at transforming the context of consumption, rather than trying to change individual intentions and motivations.
How Can Sociology of Consumption Contribute to Sustainable Food Transformation?
1Tampere University, Finland; 2University of Helsinki, Finland
The Paris Agreement (2015) and the IPCC report (2018) call for drastic changes at all societal levels and in all sectors. Reports strongly urge dietary shift towards more sustainable food consumption in order to mitigate climate change and biodiversity loss. Although both policy and lifestyle changes have been painstakingly slow, many indicators, such as widespread media publicity on sustainable foods and eating, sales of vegan foods, vegan pledges and cookbooks, show an increased interest in plant-based diets, at least in some population groups.
We claim that the increasing interest in sustainable eating builds momentum for a paradigm shift in food culture. The presentation, based on the results of POPRASUS and RUOMU projects, will discuss how sociology of consumption may contribute to what has been recently termed as “The Great Food Transformation”, i.e., an ecologically sound food system offering a healthy diet (Lancet 2019). We will analyse the characteristics of the momentum and the barriers to the shift. We have located the following characteristics of contemporary consumer societies that hinder the shift: The positive meanings of indulgence, the high cultural value placed on meat and dairy, the focus on short-term rather than long-term benefits in consumption and politics, the ephemeral nature of many food fads, conflicting information in the media, the crisis of expert knowledge, the responsibilization of consumers, and lack of effective food policies. In the presentation, we discuss these factors and the conditions for sustainable food transformation through empirical examples and sociological theorization on consumption.
Feeding The Melting Pot: Inclusiveness in accessing healthy and sustainable food in multicultural cities
1Aeres University of Applied Sciences, Almere, The Netherlands; 2Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands
The need for a shift toward healthier and more sustainable diets is evident and is supported by universalized standards for a ‘planetary health diet’ such as provided by the recent EAT-Lancet report. At the same time, differences exist in tastes, preferences and food practices among diverse ethnic groups, which becomes progressively relevant in light of Europe’s increasingly multi-ethnic cities. There is a growing tension between the current sustainable diets standards and how diverse ethnic resident groups do or don’t relate to it within their ‘culturally appropriate’ foodways. What are the mechanisms and processes around inclusiveness in healthy and sustainable food practices in a multi-ethnic urban context? We study this question among Syrian migrants with different lengths of stay in the Netherlands. Our theoretical framework is based on practice theories, which emphasize the importance of socio-material context and of bodily routines, skills and competences. We use qualitative methods, combining in-depth semi-structured life history interviews with participant observation. Our findings indicate that mechanisms and meanings of inclusiveness change over time as migrants’ food practices and the food environment change. In terms of health and sustainability in food practices, understandings and competences around particularly fresh food change over time among both long and short term migrants, replacing making from scratch in the season with buying more processed products and out of season vegetables and fruits. Still, awareness of seasonality and buying local was relatively common, revealing some ‘inconspicuously sustainable’ elements in migrants’ food practices: not intentionally sustainable but nonetheless with positive environmental effects.
Food Waste Reduction Practices in the Digital Age
University of Bologna, Italy
The sociologic research results (starting from a PRIN research) about food waste reduction practice through Italian food sharing platforms study are discussed. Most of investigated web platforms represent the training factor to the food sharing, at a rational and non-economic logic, promoting the relationships because accessible and collaborative increasingly. The alternative models of food supply downstream of the food supply chain, in the process of domestic consumption, are the target. The aim of these platforms has revealed the redistribution of food surplus for solidarity more than food waste reduction, through innovative sharing, participation from below and social networking practices. Indeed, these practices often involve charitable associations as a response to the economic and social sustainability of local communities. Against the background of a systemic crisis that has undermined the prospects of many people for personal, professional and social inclusion fulfilment and has reduced the possibility towards primary goods like food, mostly of quality one, and towards basic services.
In order to understand the motivations, the type of users, the kind of practices and their possible replicability, the impact upon the local community, 5 case study have been examined.
The main limit of the web platform investigated, peer-to-peer, is emerged to be that rely on a limited number of nationally active users because of a trust low level as well as digital divide among the users. The trust plays a decisive role. The platforms have revealed to be an information hub that are able to offer users empowerment and agency.