INTERVIEWING AN INFORMANT: THE AMERICAN FOODSYSTEMDue via Blackboard as indicated in the syllabus (worth 10%, or 100 points towards your grade)Interviewing informants is an important part of participant observation. For this assignment,you will tie the Tracie McMillan book The American Way of Eating to the world around you byinterviewing one person whose livelihood is related to the subject of her book: the Americanfood system, from farm to supermarket to table.You will choose one person to interview. This person must be a current or recent employee inthe particular line of work you are investigating, and preferably should have this job as theirmajor source of income (not just as a side job). If your job is in one of these areas, you mayinterview a coworker.For example, persons you can interview include those who are in:• agriculture (farmer, migrant farm worker, vendor at a farmers’ market, etc)• employee in a supermarket, “supercenter” or convenience store that primarily sells food(stockperson, cashier, etc)• a person who delivers food (such as an employee for a trucking or other company whoprimarily delivers food products)• the food industry (fast food, restaurant worker or owner, bartender, etc.)• experts or scholars (natural or social scientists who study food systems)You must officially obtain this person’s permission to interview them. I will provide a form,which you can give them (physically or virtually), or if you must, obtain their verbal consent andnote this on the form. I will provide a copy of this form with this assignment and rubric.In conducting this project, you will do the following things:• Conduct background research on the industry that your informant belongs to, using atleast three sources other than the textbook:o One of your sources must be the Tracie McMillan book The American Way ofEating (you must spend at least half a page total talking about this source); ando You must also use at least two journal articles, news articles or reports, one ofwhich must be from either the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal.You must spend at least half a page total talking about the research from each ofthese outside sources as well (not counting block quotes). For sources other thanthe newspaper you subscribed to, it is best to use one of the library databases tofind this source if possible. McMillan offers sources in her own book, thoughthere are more up to date sources available in the library’s many databases, andyou should work to find some of those more recent ones.• Ask your informant why he or she works at this particular job, and how does he or shehandle food – for example, is this person someone who raises chickens, picks apples,makes cheese, serves hamburgers, unloads pallets of bananas, etc. Is this the person’sonly job? How does this job affect this person’s eating habits? And so on (I will give alist of sample questions which I strongly urge you to use).• Plan on allotting about 20 to 30 minutes for this interview (or you can correspond withyour informant via email if that is easier). You may record the interview, but please donot submit the recording or a transcription of it.• Write an introductory paragraph about the informant (it is up to you and your informantif you keep him or her anonymous) along with some background information about theindustry (and the employer if it is a large employer, like Wegmans or Food Lion, forexample), and how his or her job fits into the overall American food landscape.o As part of this paper, note which of McMillan’s informants’ situations is most likethat of your informant, and how.• Then choose at least three questions that you asked him or her to explore in greaterdetail in your paper (you must note what the questions were in your paper). Please donot just quote the person and leave it at that: give context and write in a narrative orbullet point format.• Conclude your paper by noting your feelings throughout the interview process, andwhat you learned from your informant about his or her link in the food industry. Here(preferably throughout your paper, but at least at this point) you should apply one ofthe theoretical perspectives we have discussed in class and your text to what you havelearned from your informant and your research: symbolic interactionism, social conflicttheory or structural functionalism.• Please keep your paper to about 3 ½ to 4 pages maximum, double-spaced, with 12-point font and 1” margins.Here’s the breakdown of the grade for this paper. It is worth 10% of your course grade. Yourgrade will be calculated up to a total of 100 points:1) An introduction to your interview paper, includinga. the informant’s name or pseudonym, line of work and employer (you may alsouse a pseudonym for the employer), and background information about yourinformant’s line of work, using McMillan and a second outside source – 12 pointsb. your connection between your informant’s experiences and the McMillan text –12 points2) At least three (3) questions – which you must mention in your paper – that you haveasked your informant (you may include your research from McMillan and your secondsource throughout this section as well, and you may include your theoretical discussionhere too) – 8 points each (24 total)3) A conclusion to your interview paper, includinga. what you have learned from your informant and your research about his or herpart of the American food industry – 6 pointsb. a discussion of at least one of the theories and how it applies to what you havewritten about in this interview paper – 16 points4) Format: Grammar, spelling, punctuation and readability – 7 points; 3 ½ to 4 pages,double spaced, 12-point font, 1” margins – 7 points; proper citations and formatting inAPA format (note: abstract is not necessary for this paper, even though it is typical forcorrect APA formatting) – 7 points5) Permission to interview informant – you must note this either by including the form, anemail of consent (with name blocked out if your informant wishes to remainanonymous), or some other notification that your informant gave their consent to beinterviewed, and that you let them know why you are interviewing them – 9 pointsWhen you write this paper, you must include which questions you ask your informants in thetext of your paper. The following is a list of interview questions to choose from. Some of thesequestions you will want to ask unchanged. Others you may want to alter or eliminate (pleaseread over this list of questions to make sure some make sense to ask your informant). You maywant to add your own questions that are specific to your informant or his or her job orsituation. Again, make sure you choose questions based on the person you are interviewing.For example, a question about whether your informant is one of several generations of familymembers in his or her job might make more sense to ask the owner of a long-establishedrestaurant or a dairy farm, and not for an employee at Wawa. Again, these are questions to getyou started. These questions are written in the second person, as if you are addressing yourinformant.• If you are comfortable discussing your salary, do you think it is fair for the hours you putin?• Is your workplace unionized? If so, how does the union benefit and/or hurt you as aworker? If not, how might your workplace benefit from having one (or not)? [Thisquestion is most appropriate to ask someone at a large store, supermarket oragribusiness farm, less so a small family farm or family-run restaurant]?• How does this job help you make ends meet?• How does your job affect your family life / school life / etc.?• Is your job tied to a family business, and [if your informant is part of that family] howlong has your family been involved in it?• Was there ever a time when family members chose to do other things than the familybusiness, and how did this affect the family?• What kinds of discrimination / harassment do you see on the job? [This could bedirected at employees or customers]• Do you eat the food they give you at work? Does your workplace compensate you forfood eaten there or taken home?• What are your own eating habits? Do you eat or drink the kinds of things you workaround?• How do you think the food that you sell / grow / cook benefits or affects society?GRADING RUBRIC – INTERVIEW PROJECTWhat needs tobe included12 points 8 points 5 points 2 points 0 pointsInformationaboutinformant, andresearch aboutinformant’soccupation andworkplace – 12pointsStudent givesbackgroundinformationabout theinformant’s life,job, workplace,including at leastone article fromthe WashingtonPost or WallStreet Journalplus at least oneotherappropriateoutside source,with ½ page oftext each (otherthan thetextbook). (12points)Student givesadequatebackgroundinformationabout theinformant’s life,job, andworkplace,including eitherone article fromthe WashingtonPost or WallStreet Journal oranotherappropriateoutside source(or two passablesources) plus thetext, but with ½page text total(8 points)Student must gofurther indiscussing theinformant’scircumstancesand workplace,using at mostone passablearticle (but notthe WashingtonPost or WallStreet Journal),plus thetextbook;student onlyuses companywebsite asbackgroundresearch (ex.:using only theFood Lionwebsite as theirsource). (5points)Student needsto go further inanalyzing theoccupation and(if possible) theinformant’scircumstancesand workplace,using eitherquestionablesources(Facebook,, ornon-recentresearch) andnothing else, orjust thetextbook. (2points)Student includesnothing inintroductionaboutinformant’soccupation or (ifpossible)workplace. (0points)Connectionbetween theinformant /workplace / joband theMcMillan text –12 pointsStudent makes astrong, thoroughconnectionsbetween theMcMillan textand theirinformant’s dailylife andoccupation, withat least ½ a pageof text total (12points)Student does anadequate job inmakingconnectionsbetween theMcMillan textand theirinformant’s dailylife andoccupation – butcould go a littlefurther (8points)Student does afair jobconnecting theMcMillan text totheir informant’sdaily life orcircumstances,but must gomuch further (5points)Student makesat best a brief orvagueconnectionbetween theMcMillan textand theirinformant’s dailylife orcircumstances (2points)Student includesnothing inintroductionabout theMcMillan text inthe paper (0points)What needs tobe included10 points 8 points 6 points 2 points 0 pointsDiscussion ofeach of threequestions – 8points each (24total)N/A Student doesthorough job ofdiscussing howtheir informantaddress thequestion. (8points)Student doesadequate job ofdiscussing howtheir informantaddress thequestion,including somebrief analysis oftheir responses.(6 points)Student does atbest a fair job ofdiscussing howtheir informantaddress thequestion, at bestquoting theinformantverbatim and/orleaving out thequestion beingasked. (2 points)Student doeslittle more thantell the readerwhat they knowabout them,leaving out anyinterviewresponses withtheir informant.(0 points)What needs tobe included16 points 10 points 6 points 4 points 0 pointsWhat you havelearned fromyour informantand researchabout his or herpart of theAmerican foodindustry – 6pointsN/A N/A Student doesthorough job indiscussing whatthey learnedabout theinformant’ssegment of theAmerican foodindustry,workingtogether theinterview andresearch. (6points)Student doesadequate job indiscussing whathe or shelearned aboutthe informant’ssegment of theAmerican foodindustry, butleaves out muchanalysis of theinformationlearned frominterview and/orresearch. (4points)Student doesnot include thispart of theconclusion, orhas noconclusion at all.(0 points)Application oftheory to yourinterview – 16pointsStudent doesthorough job ofapplyingsociologicaltheory to theinformant’sstory, showing asolid grasp ofsymbolicinteractionism,social conflicttheory orstructuralfunctionalism.(16 points)Student does atbest anadequate job ofapplyingsociologicaltheory to theinformant’sstory, going intosome detailabout howtheory applies tothe informant’ssituation, butcould go into alittle moredepth. (10points)Student showsat best a basicgrasp of thesociologicaltheory they use,or mixesdifferenttheoriestogetherwithout anyevidence ofunderstandingthem. (6 points)Student shows apoor grasp ofthe sociologicaltheory they use,confusing onetheory foranother ormaking itunclear whattheory they aretalking about. (4points)Student doesnot discuss anyof the theoriesand shows noevidence oftrying to do so.(0 points)What needs tobe included7 points 5 points 3 points 2 points 0 pointsFormat:Grammar,spelling,punctuation,readability – 7pointsPaper has nogrammatical,spelling orpunctuationerrors, and iswritten in anacademicformat. (7points)Paper is mostlyfree ofnoticeablegrammatical,spelling orpunctuationerrors, and/or iswritten in anacceptableacademic format(not informal).(5 points)Paper hasseveral sloppytypos, and is notwritten in anacademic format(is too informal).(3 points)Paper hasseveralgrammatical,spelling andpunctuationerrors, and/or isnot written in anacademic format(too informal,for example). (2points)Paper has majorproblems withgrammar,spelling,punctuation ortone (veryinformal, use oftextinglanguage, or hasso manymistakes that itis difficult toread the paper).(0 points)Format:Structure ofpaper – 7 pointsPaper iscorrectlyformatted (isfour pages, isdouble spaced,uses appropriate12 pt font, has1” margins, isleft justified, nopage-longparagraphs). (7points)Paper is mostlycorrectlyformatted (hasone or two ofthe following: isless than 3½ ormore than 5pages, hasspacing, fontsize,justification,margin, or otherformattingissues). (5points)Paper has someformattingissues (has someof the following:is less than 3pages, and hasspacing, fontsize,justification,margin, or otherformattingissues). (3points)Paper isincorrectlyformatted (has afew of at leastone of thefollowing: is lessthan 2 ½ ormore than 6pages, hasspacing, fontsize, justificationmargin, or otherformattingissues). (2points)Paper has majorformattingproblems (hasmost of thefollowing insome way: isless than 2pages, hasmajor spacing,font size,justification,margin, andotherformattingissues). (0points)Format: Use ofAPA format – 7pointsPaper correctlyuses APAformat,including coverpage, pagenumbers,abstract,citations andworks citedsection). (7points)Paperadequately usesAPA format,specificallygetting only afew thingswrong. (5points)N/A Paperinadequatelyuses APAformat, orspecifically usesa differentformat (2 points)Paper has noclear format atall; in-textcitations poorlydone; workscited is just a listof URL’s. (0points)What needs tobe included9 points 5 points 3 points 2 points 0 pointsProf of consentto interviewinformant – 9pointsStudent hasform orotherwise clearstatement thatinformant hasgiven theirconsent to beinginterviewed forthis project insome way(preferablythroughprovided form,or email / textconsent if notpossible) (9points)N/A Studentmentions inpaper thatinformant hasgiven consent,but doesnothing more(that is, noconsent form,screen shot ofemail or textconsent) (3points)N/A Student doesnotdemonstratethat informanthas given theirconsent to beinginterviewed inany way (0points)THINGS THAT WILL LOSE POINTSItem left out or left incomplete Points deductedIn-text / end-of-text citations and/or bibliography not included -100 (I will not acceptthis paper until theseare added)Ideas for this project were taken from the following sources: “A Brief Ethnographic Interview” (,, “Cultural Anthropology Interview Assignment”(Southern Nazarene University, and “Interviewing Tricks for StudentEthnographies” (David W. McCurdy, pages 173 – 177, in Strategies in Teaching Anthropology, Patricia C. Rice an