Researchers at Illinois Tech’s Center for Nutrition Research surveyed low-income shoppers about their views on terms associated with fresh produce such as “organic” and “conventionally grown.”

They also sought to learn how different informational content using these terms may influence their purchase intention of any type of fruits and vegetables. The study found that lower-income shoppers have heard organic messages via various media outlets and associate organic with pesticide free; and the use of pesticides with conventional fruits and vegetables. Shoppers indicated they preferred organic produce because it’s advertised to be healthier and safer, but the higher cost made them less likely to purchase organic fruits and vegetables.

Furthermore, many participants indicated they were generally more likely or there would be no difference to their current buying habits to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables after reading informational statements about government regulations or scientific findings on organic and conventionally grown produce. However, when information identified specific fruits and vegetables by name as having higher pesticide residues more shoppers reported they were unlikely to purchase any fruits and vegetables.

Shoppers with a household income level at or below 150% above the poverty level or between 151% and 250% above the poverty level were surveyed. Organically grown fruit and vegetable purchases were low for both groups (≤ 17% indicated purchasing organic fruits and vegetables), and more than 50% fewer of the lower income group reported purchasing organic produce.

Almost twice as many of those in the lower income group vs. those in the higher low-income group reported they “do not buy” organic produce. Both groups (~ 80%) indicated fresh fruits and vegetables are available where they do their grocery shopping and 44% of these people reported having organic produce available.

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