Skip to main content

Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Publication | 2021

Consumer food sustainability before and during the Covid-19 Crisis: A quantitative content analysis and food policy implications


  • Investigates media framing of consumer sustainability before and during COVID-19.
  • Consumer responsibility is positively related to shopping behavior and food waste.
  • Sustainability consciousness is positively related to education and knowledge.
  • COVID-19 moderates relationships between frame contents and implications.
  • Articles written by readers are likely to call for ‘hard’ sustainability actions.


Sustainability is one of the major challenges that societies are facing. The question of why and how consumer food sustainability related issues (e.g., food waste, sustainable food shopping behavior, among others) are placed on the public agenda is therefore of high interest to food policy makers. Drawing from media agenda setting theory, this study provides the first analysis of how relationships between consumer food sustainability-related frames appear in the media. Focusing on the COVID-19 crisis, it is examined how the media framed food sustainability issues in 2019 and 2020. 271 newspaper stories are investigated through a rather new approach to quantitative content analysis that incorporated binary coding, optimal scaling, and path analysis. The study’s findings point to various significant relationships between frame contents and implications and similarly bring to light the moderating effects of the COVID-19 crisis and ‘article authorship’ on a number of these relationships. The findings contribute to the understanding of how public opinion regarding food sustainability develops and can help food policymakers and authorities seeking to develop, position, and address issues relevant to food sustainability.