Knowledge for better food systems

Food and Sustainability Research Forum

Interview with Angie Clonan and Claire May from the Food and Sustainability Research Forum.

Where are you based and what is your role?

Angie: I'm based in the department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Nottingham's Sutton Bonington Campus. I am a PhD student investigating consumers' understanding of, and attitude towards sustainable food, and how this may or may not influence the health of their diet in nutritional terms.

Claire: I'm based at Kent Business School at the University of Kent, in Canterbury. I am a PhD student and I'm looking into sustainable food consumption and consumer behaviour.

Food and Sustainability Research Forum

We are setting up the 'Food and Sustainability Research Forum', a mailing list and on-line discussion forum for those undertaking academic work in the area of food and sustainability.

The premise is to provide a forum for researchers to make contact and share ideas in the hope that it will facilitate a useful dialogue between researchers working in this area.

If you would be interested in joining the group, we would like to hear from you – please email

What are the aims of your research/project as they relate to food and the climate?

Claire: The aims of my PhD are to understand the promoters for and barriers to sustainable food purchasing behaviour. Ultimately the goal is to find ways to bridge the gap between sustainable consumption behaviour and actual consumption behaviour.

Angie: The main focus of my research will be to investigate consumer's understanding of sustainable food and their attitudes towards sustainable food, and to assess whether the health of their diet in nutritional terms is affected by this.

My research will use mixed methods: the first phase will take the form of a questionnaire to assess current knowledge of sustainable food components and attitudes towards these - additionally a section on current dietary intake will be included for comparison. It's anticipated that this questionnaire will be conducted on a sample representative of the main population. One of the main aims is to use the resulting data to focus on key groups of the population in a further qualitative study.

The third phase of my research will involve some comparisons between reported attitudes/behaviour and actual purchasing behaviour with regard to sustainable food. In addition, I am overseeing a Master of Nutrition student, who is conducting a qualitative study investigating possible tensions between the promotion of sustainable food and dietetics practice (in both acute and community settings).

Please describe your work - what stage it is at, when it is expected to be completed etc.

Claire: I started in October 2007 so I am still in the early stages of my PhD and I am currently focusing on the literature review.The research will combine quantitative analysis of the dunnhumby (supermarket loyalty card) data, to determine what people do, with qualitative research into why.

The dunnhumby data is unique in that it can reveal actual as opposed to intended or self reported purchasing. This means that we can begin to truly understand the consumption process where it begins - at the point of purchase - and how this may change in response to certain initiatives. I hope to complete in 2010!

Angie: I am currently conducting interviews with a diverse sample of the UK public in order to develop my questionnaire, which I anticipate will be carried out in September.