Covid-19 impacts on UK food systems

Covid-19 Impacts on UK Food Systems

In March 2020, with the UK nine months away from leaving the EU, the Covid-19 pandemic took hold and it swiftly became clear that the food system would be as deeply affected by Covid as it was likely to be by Brexit.

Covid’s food impacts have been extensive and polar: at one end of the spectrum, an increase in hunger and reliance on food parcels; at the other a surge in home baking and vegetable growing. Supermarket shelves emptied; demand for local and organic food soared. People reported the miseries of eating alone every day; Instagram portrayed a nation of culinary artists.

As with Brexit, the question emerged: was this an opportunity to ‘build back better’, with an increased respect for food producers and provenance, and a recognition of how food can glue local economies together? Or would it be a trapdoor through which, in the name of efficiency and Covid restrictions, hard-won progress on children’s diets, food standards and measures to mitigate food’s climate impacts could slide?

The Food Research Collaboration will monitor and analyse Covid’s impacts on the UK’s food system, aiming to generate, collate and share evidence from policy and practice that strengthens food system sustainability.