The Generation X report

April 26, 2012, University of Michigan

Generation X adults prepare an average of 10 meals a week, and eat out or buy fast food an average of three times a week, according to a University of Michigan report that details the role food plays in the lives of Americans born between 1961 and 1981.

GenX men are surprisingly involved in shopping for and cooking, the report shows. They go grocery shopping more than once a week, on average, and cook an average of about eight a week—much more often than their fathers did.

"I was surprised to see how often GenX men shop and cook," said Jon Miller, author of The Report. "Women, particularly married women, are still doing more cooking and shopping. But men are much more involved in these activities than they used to be. The stereotype that men can't do much more in the kitchen than boil water just can't hold water, as it were."

Using data from about 3,000 young collected as part of the ongoing Longitudinal Study of American Youth funded by the National Science Foundation, the report details where GenXers look for information about food, how often they entertain at home and how they feel about organic and genetically modified foods.

"Food does more than provide necessary sustenance," Miller said. "Meals provide an important time for families to gather together and share their lives, and also mark special occasions with family, friends and neighbors."

Food is also a source of concern, according to Miller, and the new report covers GenX attitudes about potential food-related benefits and threats. What kinds of food are healthiest to eat and serve your family? Where should you turn for the best information about potential threats from genetically modified foods?

Among the key findings:

  • GenXers cooked a meal for guests about once a month, on average, and they talked to friends about food or cooking about six times a month.
  • Men and women were equally likely to watch food shows on television, about four times a month.
  • Married women cooked the most—preparing about 12 meals a week, on average. Single women cooked about 10 meals a week, while both married and single men prepared about eight meals a week.
  • About half of GenXers said they preferred to buy organic foods at least some of the time, and one in 10 said they are committed to buying organic when it's available.
  • GenXers had a low level of understanding about foods. On a 10-point index of understanding, the mean score was 3.8.
"In the 21st century, food often involves judgments that may require some scientific understanding," Miller said. "Young adults who are scientifically literate are most able to monitor news about food safety, and most able to identify and use credible sources of information about a topic that directly affects their own health and the health of friends and family."

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