Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Yesterday’s dinner, tomorrow’s weather, today’s news? US newspaper coverage of food system contributions to climate change

Roni A Neffa1 c1, Iris L Chana1 and Katherine Clegg Smitha2

a1 Center for a Livable Future, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe Street, Room E2640, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

a2 Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 624 N. Broadway, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA

Abstract

Background There is strong evidence that what we eat and how it is produced affects climate change.

Objective The present paper examines coverage of food system contributions to climate change in top US newspapers.

Design Using a sample of sixteen leading US newspapers from September 2005 to January 2008, two coders identified ‘food and climate change’ and ‘climate change’ articles based on specified criteria. Analyses examined variation across time and newspaper, the level of content relevant to food systems’ contributions to climate change, and how such content was framed.

Results There were 4582 ‘climate change’ articles in these newspapers during this period. Of these, 2·4 % mentioned food or agriculture contributions, with 0·4 % coded as substantially focused on the issue and 0·5 % mentioning food animal contributions. The level of content on food contributions to climate change increased across time. Articles initially addressed the issue primarily in individual terms, expanding to address business and government responsibility more in later articles.

Conclusions US newspaper coverage of food systems’ effects on climate change during the study period increased, but still did not reflect the increasingly solid evidence of the importance of these effects. Increased coverage may lead to responses by individuals, industry and government. Based on co-benefits with nutritional public health messages and climate change’s food security threats, the public health nutrition community has an important role to play in elaborating and disseminating information about food and climate change for the US media.

(Received March 19 2008)

(Accepted July 07 2008)

Correspondence

c1 Corresponding author: Email Rneff@jhsph.edu

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