Revealing stakeholder attitudes about local food in a university foodservice using Q Methodology
Background: Local food has many positive attributes. The ‘Local Food Movement’ is driven by consumer demand and brings attention to a value-based food system that focuses on the environmental, social and ethical implications of a food system. There is no consensus on how to define local, but by letting the consumer and foodservice define the term local, stakeholders can determine the direction of foodservice localisation in the context of their local food system. To date there have been no comprehensive multi-stakeholder studies assessing attitudes to local food in a university foodservice setting. Objective: Researchers need to work to understand the attitudes of stakeholders so they can predict how organisational change will be received. The purpose of this study was to explore diverse stakeholder viewpoints to localization in a university foodservice. The research question was “what are the dominant shared stakeholder viewpoints about local food and how might an understanding of these be used to help management localize the foodservice?” Attitudes about local food were measured using Q Methodology, a mix of both quantitative and qualitative research paradigms and hence a robust methodology for exploring subjective attitudes. This study will measure the attitudes of students, foodservice staff, management staff, and food suppliers of a university hall of residence in Otago, New Zealand. Design: The full breadth of attitudes around local food was identified from the literature, popular media and one-on-one stakeholder interviews. From this a Q set of statements about local food (n=42) was generated. Q sort interviews were conducted with the participant group (n=47). Each stakeholder sorted statements, from agree to disagree, in a forced distribution and was then interviewed on their sorting decisions. PQMethod software was used for a factor analysis across the pool of statements to identify shared viewpoints within the participant group. These were interpreted using qualitative interview data. Results: Four dominant shared viewpoints were identified within the participant group. Thirteen participants aligned with a factor, named “The Leaders”, 12 with “The Idealists”, 14 with “The Globalists and eight with “The Individualists”. “The Leaders” and “The Globalists” were informed about traceability of the food system and were supportive of a sustainability strategy involving local food. “The Idealists” were willing to make sacrifices for local food but had unrealistic ideals about localisation and “The Individualists” felt local food ensured better quality food. Both of these factors were uninformed about food system traceability and felt local food had better food safety and more ethical and sustainable production. All factors defined ‘local’ differently: “The Leaders” defined ‘local’ broadly as within New Zealand, while other factors defined ‘local’ more narrowly as a specific region of New Zealand, making them pessimistic about some aspects of localisation. Conclusion: Definitions of ‘local’ were product-dependent and often include broader regional and national food systems. Definitions were flexible enough that all suppliers could work within them, but narrow enough to put pressure on foodservice staff and suppliers to identify further capacity of the local food system. The values of the ‘Local Food Movement’ were recommended for value-based food goal planning to drive localisation and foodservice sustainability.
Advisor: Spence, Heather; Mirosa, Miranda
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: foodservice; local food; stakeholder attitudes
Research Type: Thesis