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Consumer agency and food retailer choice in an American urban neighborhood

Author:

Brian J Thomas

Saginaw Valley State University, US
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Abstract

This study examines the issue of consumer agency within the food system as manifested by food secure and food insecure households in an urban neighborhood in the United States. Using a self-administered mail survey this study examines food retailer perception and shopping behaviour of food secure and insecure households in Lansing, Michigan. Food security represents a useful lens through which to examine the issue of agency since food, while a necessary part of life, is nonetheless something that is difficult to access for a large sector of the population. By examining both food secure and food insecure households, light is shed on some of the factors that lead to the relative ability of each group to successfully and reliably obtain food. In particular, this study focuses on the perception and behaviour of consumers in relation to the decision to shop, or not to shop, at various food retailers. Some theories of consumer behaviour tend to focus either on class related cultural elements which determine taste preferences while other theories focus on structural elements of the food system which force a limited selection onto various social groups. While certainly class culture influences taste preference to some extent, results from this study suggest that structural elements of the food system and economic differences between food secure and food insecure households have a larger influence on store choice than cultural preferences. In fact, both food secure and insecure households indicated similar sets of criteria used in determining store choices. However, in examination of actual shopping behaviours, this study found that food insecure households are more likely to shop at deep discounters and more likely to travel farther to obtain food. These results suggest that structural elements such as food retailer locations limit the range of shopping options of food insecure households when compared to food secure households.

How to Cite: Thomas, B.J., 2011. Consumer agency and food retailer choice in an American urban neighborhood. Journal of Social Inclusion, 2(1), pp.5–22. DOI: http://doi.org/10.36251/josi.21
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Published on 23 Jun 2011.
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