Selected elements of youth activity in the context of creating a sustainable food economy


Providing food is a fundamental human need, therefore the functioning of food economy is a subject of common interest. Food consumers can influence the functioning of the food system mainly through individual purchase decisions, therefore consumer awareness and purchase preferences are important.  

Modern food supply chains are increasingly criticized. A number of problems resulting from the operation of long supply chains are highlighted. The problems are economic, social and concern the safety and quality of the food supplied [1]. Short supply chains different from traditional long chains are becoming an alternative [2]. Short food supply chains (SFSC) are defined by Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 [3]. In Article 2 (Definitions) saved: 'short supply chain: means a supply chain involving a limited number of economic operators, committed to cooperation, local economic development, and close geographical and social relations between producers, processors and consumers'. Short food supply chains are perceived as much more sustainable than the contemporary global food system [4]. Therefore, learning about youth perceptions of SFSCs is important for shaping sustainable development.

Maintaining good health is largely dependent on physical activity [5], and these are shaped during adolescence [6,7]. Thus, learning about adolescents physical activity and food preferences can be used to shape community health.


sustainable food economy, food supply chain, youth preferences, Poland

Research Question

The purpose of this study was to identify young people's food purchasing habits in the context of environmental attitudes, shopping attitudes, and physical and social activity. The shopping attitudes, ecological awareness, social activity, and preferences for modern and traditional foods were identified. The study was conducted among people aged 18-35 in south-eastern Poland.

Main Method

The study was conducted in November 2019 by diagnostic survey method using survey form. The technique used was CAWI (Computer-Assisted Web Interview). The survey was non-probabilistic, respondents were selected by random method. In the first stage, the questionnaire was administered to 350 students who invited other students to the study. The condition of participation in the survey was living in the south-eastern Poland and studying at one of the local universities. The total number of reliably completed questionnaires was 743. The survey form contained a number of statements (theses). Respondents rated the support for these theses using a five-point bipolar scale. On the scale, a value of 1 meant definitely no; 2 - rather no; 3 - neither yes nor no; 4 - rather yes; 5 - definitely yes. The form also included questions to identify community involvement and basic sociodemographic characteristics. Results were statistically analyzed.

Fig. 1- Q1-6 from the conducted survey, showing results.
Fig. 1- Q1-6 from the conducted survey, showing results. 
Fig. 2- Q7-11 from the conducted survey, showing results.
Fig. 2- Q7-11 from the conducted survey, showing results. 
Fig. 3- Q12-16 from the conducted survey, showing results.
Fig. 3- Q12-16 from the conducted survey, showing results. 
Fig. 4- Q17-22 from the conducted survey, showing results.
Fig. 4- Q17-22 from the conducted survey, showing results. 

Main Results

Respondents exhibited high levels of environmental sensitivity. A large percentage of respondents confirmed the need to move away from consumerism and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A significant percentage of respondents (68.4%) declared to segregate waste. Thus, it can be concluded that the subjects had developed ecological sensitivity. In the part identifying shopping habits, respondents declared that they do not buy for stock (65.5%), share unnecessary products with others (65.8%), read product labels when buying (54.8%). A minority of the people surveyed 39.8% buy from second-hand stores, and 30.4% of people pay attention to whether products have quality certificates. The results indicate rational shopping attitudes of the people surveyed. About one-third of the people surveyed shopped at the bazaar in SFSC (34.7%), while 57.6% of the respondents preferred to buy food produced in their region of residence. Respondents valued traditional and organic foods and feared foods containing GMOs. In the study group, 70.1% said they were willing to pay higher costs for safe, high-quality food. Despite the pro-ecological attitude of the surveyed people, low involvement in social activities related to the quality of the natural environment was identified. Membership in social organizations, whose goals include caring for the environment was declared by only 7.5% of respondents. In this group, women accounted for 57.1% and 42.9% of men. The physical activity of the subjects was moderate, 57.1% declared systematic exercise. However, almost ¼ (24.6%) of the subjects did not declare systematic physical activity. A number of interesting correlations were also found between shopping behavior and environmental attitudes and shopping preferences. All statistically significant correlation coefficients were positive. That is, more rational purchase behavior was associated with higher scores on theses diagnosing sensitivity to environmental quality and with rational purchase preferences. It is worth noting that the declarations of use of SFSC were not associated with evaluations of the thesis concerning the key role of man in the reduction of the greenhouse effect, as well as the thesis referring to the great role of waste segregation in environmental protection. Sports activity was also associated with purchase behavior. Individuals with a preference for outbound tourism were less likely to use SFSC. Positive purchase behavior was positively correlated with preference for individual tourism, hiking, cycling.

Table 1. Correlation coefficients between shopping behaviour and environmental attitude and shopping preferences
Table 1. Correlation coefficients between shopping behaviour and environmental attitude and shopping preferences

Red colour indicates correlation coefficients that are statistically significant (α=0.05)

7. I only buy food and other products as much as I need at a given moment; 8. I buy in second-hand stores; 9. I give away unnecessary or used items to other people; 10. I read the ingredients of the food I buy on the label; 11. When buying, I pay attention to whether the product has quality certificates, ecological labels, signs confirming environmental friendliness; 12. I often shop at the bazaar, directly from the producers;

 1. It is necessary to limit consumption due to the depletion of raw material resources; 2. Poles are now more focused on consumption than on building social ties (family, friends, free time); 3. Waste segregation is a way to protect the environment; 4. Humans play a key role in reducing the greenhouse effect; 5. Heating houses with coal should be gradually reduced; 6. I segregate waste regularly; 13. Foods that contain genetic modifications may pose a risk to the consumer; 14. Traditionally produced food is more valuable than industrially produced food; 15. I’m able to pay 10% more for organic, wholesome and safe food; 16. I prefer to buy food produced in my region; 17. I prefer to go abroad for vacations than stay in Poland; 18. I systematically maintain physical activity (running, pool, gym, yoga, cycling, etc.); 19. I do hiking; 20. I do bicycle touring; 21. I prefer individual tourism using agritourism as well; 22. I prefer to use organized tourism (travel agencies).

Main Conclusion

Respondents demonstrated an understanding of the need to protect the environment, but had little involvement in community activities in this area. Sports activity of the respondents varied. Nearly 60% of the respondents reported systematic physical activity, but about ¼ of the respondents had an inactive lifestyle.

Respondents shopping attitudes were characterized by rationality. Respondents did not overstock, they shared unnecessary products with other people. They highly valued organic, safe and high quality food. They were willing to pay a slightly higher price for products meeting their expectations. The shopping behavior of the respondents did not indicate frequent shopping in short food supply chains.

The surveyed people declared that they do not have full knowledge about the benefits of SFSC and they used a rational approach when shopping. The conclusion is that in order to develop SFSC, a broad information campaign is needed to present the advantages of this aspect of food management.


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Krzysztof Kud, Ph.D.  Assoc. Professor, Department of Enterprise, Management and Eco-innovation, Rzeszow University of Technology Rzeszów, POLAND

Last modified: 2021-10-19