Professor wins research award

UTM sociology Professor Josee Johnston, who teaches the Sociology of Food and Globalization course, has received the Early Researcher Award in the amount of $140,000 for her study of consumerism in the food market. The study focuses on reasons why more and more people decide to buy their groceries from organic food stores, farmers markets and community-supported agriculture.

Food consumption is a topic that I find really inspiring to work on because it never feels like Ive reached the end state, said Johnston. It always feels like its spiraling out in other areas that Im interested in looking at.

The study, named Eating off the grid: Understanding Consumer Motivation in the Alternative Food Sector, includes a team of dedicated researchers who will survey and document the demographic profile of individuals who purchase groceries from these alternative markets. Johnston will host interviews and focus group research in order to further understand why more people are choosing organic food stores and farmers markets over big chain grocery stores.

Johnston believes that although buying organic and eating food from local farms are positive acts, they also suggest that sustainability of the local food system depends on wealthy consumers. At the end of the day, we need more state intervention to make laws that protect our land, and that make sure people get fed. Johnstons hope is to provide awareness into how the local food system is reinforced and shaped by market forces. She does not believe there will be an absolute end to her research.

The Early Researcher Awards program helps Ontario researchers build their research teams of graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, research assistants and associates. According to the Ministry of Research and Innovation website, the programs goal is to improve Ontarios ability to attract and retain the best and brightest research talent from around the world.

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