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Study suggests organic food not for poor

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver



If you’re going to buy food for the poor using tax dollars, try not to get the good stuff, suggests research from the University of B.C.

Darren Dahl, a marketing professor, conducted a series of experiments to gauge reactions on public money being used to buy food.

He found people tended to frown when those on welfare shell out for organic food, while those buying organics with their own money are seen as ethical, or having good morals.

“Organic, fair trade, many of these often called ethical choices are seen in a negative way when an individual on welfare is receiving it,” Dahl said on Tuesday.

“If you’re working a low-paying job and you wanted to buy organics that’s fine. It’s when you’re on welfare, and you’re spending the public purse — ‘my’ tax dollars — then people have an issue.”

The findings have financial implications particularly for non-profits and other support groups who help purchase food for the poor.

In one experiment conducted among 153 people, a charity asking for donations received 37% less from donors when money was solicited for “organic” meals versus the regular stuff, even though no price difference for the food was listed.

However, that doesn’t mean support agencies can’t buy organic food — they just have to keep the public perception in mind. Another experiment conducted in the same study found negative feelings were mitigated if the price for both types of food were the same.

“They have to be very clear in their messaging, the pricing, looking at ways that you can reduce the negative effects out there,” Dahl said.

“‘Look, we get the same price whether it’s organic or non-organic.’ That reduces the problem ... thinking about your message is critical.”