The report reveals differences in food insecurity and sustainable food sourcing across racial and ethnic groups


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Black and Hispanic consumers are slightly more likely to check food labels and are more likely to face food insecurity, according to the Consumer Food Insights report.

The Purdue University survey-based report Center for Food Needs Analysis and Sustainability assesses food security and spending, consumer satisfaction and values, support for agricultural and food policies, and trust in information sources. The latest report also details racial and ethnic differences in food shopping, preferences and food insecurity. The team analyzed survey data from January through May to compare differences in responses between white, black, Asian, and Hispanic households.

The Purdue Consumer Food Insights Report found that black and Hispanic households are more than twice as likely to be food insecure as white and Asian households. (Image from Purdue University/Courtesy Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability) Download image

“There are significant disparities between racial and ethnic groups, and nearly 30% of Black and Hispanic households experienced food insecurity this year,” he said Jayson Luskthe Head and Distinguished Professor of agricultural economics at Purdue, who directs the center. “In addition, approximately 50% of Black and Hispanic households report waiting for their next paycheck or federal payment to buy groceries. This data helps us see where to focus our efforts to reduce food insecurity.”

Purdue experts conducted and evaluated the survey, which was attended by 1,200 consumers in the United States

Other results are:

  • Black and Hispanic households are more than twice as food insecure as white and Asian households.
  • 16% of households are food insecure.
  • Total grocery spending increased 7% from last month to $184 a week.
  • 55% of consumers think farmers should replace synthetic fertilizers with organic ones.
  • A purchasing index for sustainable groceries of 68/100.

The Sustainable Food Purchasing Index provides insight into how sustainability and health relate to consumer behavior. It is a self-reported assessment of how consumers’ shopping habits correspond to healthy eating from sustainable food systems.

The survey found that white adults are less likely than the other groups to buy foods that are typically advertised as more ethical or sustainable, such as local foods, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef, cage-raised eggs, and organic foods. The Consumer Food Insights Report, as well as other historical sources, also shows that black and Hispanic adults are more likely to be vegetarians or vegans compared to the general population, said Sam Polzin, a food and agriculture surveys scientist for the center and co-author of the report.

“Plant-based eating is often portrayed as a cultural movement led by white yuppies, but we found that black, as well as Asian and Hispanic consumers, are more likely to choose the plant-based and organic options,” Polzin said. “Eating fewer animal products is perhaps what is most associated with modern day environmentalism today, but it’s important to remember that many non-Western food traditions — including Hinduism, Rastafarianism, and many indigenous tribes across the Americas — have long… have eaten little or no meat.”

Lusk notes that the higher interest in plant-based diets may also be due to income disparities and the fact that meat tends to be a relatively expensive dining option.

Survey responses also showed that black Americans check food labels, including GMO ingredients and place of origin, more often than other groups.

“With sustainable food labeling debates expected to heat up, we need to understand which groups will be impacted by rapidly evolving policy discussions and map out exactly who will benefit from new labeling standards,” Polzin said. “Trust in the food system also varies by racial and ethnic group, and food labeling can be a crucial tool to communicate useful, expert-certified product information and build trust.”

The Trustworthiness Index measured by the survey shows that black and Hispanic adults trust government agencies like the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration significantly less than white and Asian adults.

Lusk further discusses the report in his to blogand a video is available at

The Center for Food Needs Analysis and Sustainability is part of Purdue’s Next Steps in Agriculture and Food Systems, and it aims to leverage innovative data analytics shared through user-friendly platforms to improve the food system. In addition to the Consumer Food Insights Report, the center offers an online portfolio dashboards.

Writer: Elizabeth K Gardner; 765-441-2024; [email protected]

Sources: Sam Polzin: [email protected]

Jayson Lusk: [email protected]

Agricultural communication: 765-494-8415;

Maureen Manier, Division Manager, [email protected]

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