Americans Really Do Care About Food Policy, According to a New Poll

Last Update: March 12, 2020

Looking at what many Americans eat these days—and what it’s doing to us—it’s easy to get depressed. Bad news keeps pouring in from every direction, and it almost feels like the country has given up on nutrition.

And then you read the results of the FoodMinds Strategic Insights Team poll on food, nutrition, and food policy.

FoodMinds polled 684 politically engaged American voters who serve as the regular food shoppers for their families, finding that overall, these “opinion leader shoppers” have a high level of knowledge about food policy and strong opinions about what should be done to improve nutrition.

The results shed some light on what most Americans really think about food policy. Here are four of the biggest takeaways from the most recent FoodMinds poll.

Food policy should be an election-year topic

Overall, two-thirds of shoppers polled would like presidential debates to spend more time on food policy. The consensus stretched across party lines, too: a full three-quarters of Democrats and half of the Republicans polled agreed.

Nutrition is more than just a personal responsibility

Opinion leader shoppers increasingly believe that society as a whole—including the government, large corporations, schools, the healthcare system—is just as responsible for the food choices Americans make as the individuals themselves. The number of shoppers who agree with this statement has jumped by 15 percent since the poll was first conducted in January 2010.

Uncle Sam has a part to play

Given the previous point, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of shoppers support government intervention in the food system. Fifty-four percent of people polled would approve of government limitations on certain unhealthy foods. Interestingly, 30 percent shoppers also said they would be open to restrictions or warnings on unhealthy food—up from 16 percent in 2010.

Shoppers trust friends and family the most when it comes to food

Respondents were asked to rate their level of trust of different groups that might share nutrition information or health advice: friends and family, government agencies, peers/neighbors, special interest groups, Michelle Obama, social media, and celebrities. Not surprisingly, friends and family ranked as the most trusted source. The government came next, with 32 percent people saying they put a “great deal of trust” in agencies like the Food and Drug Administration. First Lady Michelle Obama also ranked highly,  perhaps because of her work with Let’s Move. Other celebrities? Not so much—less than 20 percent of respondents said they put any trust at all in celebs.

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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Steve Holt

Steve Holt's stories about food, nutrition and food politics are found at Civil Eats,, Boston Magazine, and elsewhere. He's been featured in the Best Food Writing anthology. Follow his tweets and Instagrams @thebostonwriter.

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