Coronavirus Has Changed How Parents Look At Food

The Lempert Report
August 21, 2020

The pandemic is not an excuse to change our eating habits for the worse.

“Parents are really going through some stuff this year,” said Allison Webster, the lead researcher and registered dietitian at the International Food Information Council. This new research suggests the coronavirus has changed the way parents look at food, and not necessarily for the better.

The survey found parents were more likely to have made dietary changes, including snacking more often and drinking coffee in the afternoon. They were also more likely to express worry and pessimism, explained Webster.

Parents are now juggling work responsibilities with childcare, sometimes from multiple jobs. “It’s not surprising at all that things would be changing in terms of our relationship to food and our behaviors around food,” Webster explained.  

Most Americans say they’re eating differently as a result of the pandemic—eight out of ten, to be specific—but parents, women and consumers under 35 were the groups most likely to have made changes. Parents usually stick out from other groups of consumers in food surveys, according to Webster, but this year the differences are particularly striking. 

Parents are far more worried about shopping in person at the grocery store, for example, with 43% of parents with children under 18 expressing heightened concern about in-person grocery shopping, as compared to just 33% of consumers without children. 

Parents are more likely to buy groceries online. To be specific, 20% of parents with children under 18 buy groceries online at least once a week, while only 8% of consumers without kids are doing so. 

Forty-one percent of parents say they’re snacking more often, as compared to just 29% of non-parents. They’re also more likely to skip meals entirely, snack more than once a day and drink caffeine with lunch. “We also saw that parent were more likely to consume caffeine from a lot of different sources,” added Webster. Not just coffee but tea, iced tea, diet soda, energy bars, energy drinks—you name it, parents will try it, apparently. 

Women are also more likely than men to think about food more than usual—31% of women as compared to 22% of male respondents. Twenty-four percent of women also say they’re eating more than usual, as compared to just 17% of men.

Parents are also far more likely to express pessimism about the future, at least as far as dietary health is concerned. Twenty-two percent of parents with children under 18 expect the American diet will become less healthy over the next decade, as compared to just 12% of non-parents.