Thursday, November 13, 2008

City Residents Speak about Food: Groups 9, 10, 11 and 12

The paramount responsibility for the residents speak groups is to collect information about how individual residents in Camden, Newark, New Brunswick and Trenton view food, its importance and its impact on daily lives. Members of each group will travel to their respective city to interview residents at local grocery stores or food pantries. Through video, audio recording and personal note taking, these groups will produce detailed transcripts of the interviews or short films about the interviews and an analytical review of the data collected. Each group will ultimately collaborate amongst themselves to produce a final product in the form of a short paper illustrating their findings.

This week, in anticipation for the upcoming field trips to Trenton, Camden, New Brunswick and Newark, the groups discussed in person or via email what sorts of questions they wanted to include in the interviews with the residents. I was able to meet up with the Camden and New Brunswick groups while they met in Frist to prepare their list of interview questions. Here I got the chance to get a sense from the groups about how they felt the project was going thus far, their expectations for their future research and what aspects of their assigned role within the project were unclear or confusing to them. Their responses to a short questionnaire they filled out helped indicate where they stand.

They all expressed a desire for more guidance and structure within the project, but at the same time seemed to be tackling their prescribed roles within the project quite well and enthusiastically. Confusion over how the actual field trips would be conducted was a minor barrier the groups faced when trying to come up with an appropriate list of questions, as they were unsure of what sort of interview settings to expect. However, this did not bar them from effectively compiling a comprehensive list of pertinent and important questions to ask the residents. Below is a sample of one of the groups working-progress interview list:

1) How often do you come here and pick up food?
2) Do you like the food provided here? What suggestions do you have for food to be added?
3) Do you think that the food provided here is better than what you would get otherwise / ate before?
4) How often do you buy pre-prepared food?
5) Where are your favorite places to eat?
6) What are your main concerns when buying and preparing food?
7) Do you look specifically for fresh fruit and vegetables? How about organic foods?
8) How important is having high quality food to you?
9) What does a “healthy diet” mean to you? Do you think you eat a “healthy diet”?
10) How many people are you buying for?
11) How much time do you have to prepare your food?
12) How do you get to and from the grocery stores?
13) Do you think that poor quality food/ poor access to food? If so, what reasons do you think account for this?
14) Do you think that local representatives need to be talking about the quality of food available in Camden?
15) Where does quality of food access rank in importance do you?

The questionnaire also shed light on the group member’s individual mindsets and backgrounds coming into the project. When asked about their own personal nutritional habits the responses varied: vegetarians, “balanced” diets and packaged food were just a few of the habits cited. Overall, the responses reflected an awareness that food is key factor to what it means to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Furthermore, they mostly attributed their current nutritional habits to the environment they grew up in and the nutritional values and access said setting instilled within them. It will be interesting to see how the individual group members own relationships with and opinions about food will juxtapose those of the residents interviewed in the weeks to come.