What’s Cooking?A Content Analysis of Food Network Programming Lisa K, Lundy, Louisiana State University Amanda Ruth-McSwain, College of Charleston
Food Network "The Food Network is like MTV was in the '80s." - Sandra Lee, USA Today "Farm to table is very popular right now, and I think that trend will continue … helping put the focus back on where food is coming from." - Rachael Ray, USA Today
Food Network Viewers Food Network viewers are deeply involved in all aspects of cooking and food… More than half, 55% cook for themselves at least 4+ times a week. Convenience is important too, once a week or more nearly two-thirds order take-out/prepared foods (61%) and/or go out to eat (65%). At least once a month, more than half entertain guests at home (56%) and/or bring food to other people’s homes (55%).
Setting the Table With poor eating behavior as a leading cause for heart disease, cancers, strokes, and diabetes, experts have called for bridging nutrition education and interest in the culinary arts. Oddly, while Americans are preparing and eating fewer of their meals at home, they are increasingly interested in television shows teaching them how to buy, prepare, and consume food.
Setting the Table The increasing demand for food specialty television demonstrates the potential influence and cultivation effects that this medium can have on lifestyles, health behaviors, and individual well-being. Contrary to conventional nutrition education efforts, food television has the ability to combine entertainment and education through an accessible medium using applicable messages, which has been cited as a solution to “creating and maintaining healthy eating practices.” (Condrasky & Hegler, 2010) Combining food education with an experience provides viewers with a culinary confidence, including control over the ingredients purchased, a familiarity with various preparation techniques, and an appreciation for the foods consumed.
Setting the Table In her 2005 analysis of the Food Network, Cheri Ketchum describes the role of the network in creating fantasies wherein consumers are exposed to different outlets for pleasure, all of which involve consuming various products linked to advertisers and sponsors. Since its inception in 1993, FN has moved from informative, instruction-based cooking to personality-driven programming.
Research Questions What are the primary sources of information in Food Network programming? What are the primary themes in Food Network programming? How do the themes manifest in programming? Is food safety an important issue in Food Network programming? Is food safety included in programming implicitly or explicitly? How does this differ based on type of show?
Methods The research team recorded all shows on the Food Network during the month of September 2009. We analyzed one constructed week. Using qualitative and quantitative content analysis methods, the taped programming was analyzed for variables such as type of programming, sources of information, advertisements, product placement, food safety messages (explicit and implicit), and program themes. The data gathered was analyzed for (1) descriptive statistics of frequency, and (2) thematic analysis of messages found in the sample of FN programming.
Sources of Information
The Basics of Food Safety CLEAN: Wash hands and surfaces often. SEPARATE: Don't cross-contaminate. COOK: Cook to proper temperature. CHILL: Refrigerate promptly.