Vulnerable food systems

One of the challenges to receive a lot of attention at the beginning of the pandemic was a shortage of food. Whilst empty supermarket shelves were largely caused by stockpiling, the fear of scarcity driving it was dignified. Long supply chains are vulnerable to travel restrictions, market protectionism and a healthy workforce, with only around 50% of the UK’s food being produced here and over 90% of it controlled by 8 companies.

The instinct to stay healthy to survive Covid-19 drove much of the behavioural change seen during the first wave of the pandemic. As people took new measures to make sure they had enough healthy food to eat, 3 million signed up to veg box schemes or bought directly from a local farm for the first time during the Spring 2020 lockdown.

Surveys found that 42% of people reported a greater appreciation of food and 38% cooking more from scratch, as many also attempted to grow their own food for the first time, with compost and seed sales up 250% and an increase in interest for allotments adding to already enormous waiting lists. Meanwhile, local parks, gardens and green spaces have become the nation’s recreation ground, as access to nature and clean air have been crucial for maintaining physical and mental health.

At the same time, food banks received a 122% surge in use by the end of March 2020 and still now, ever increasing numbers of people are becoming destitute. Growing community support networks have had to support the vulnerable with emergency food packages. The importance of accessibility to healthy food is indisputable, but its production can also help to meet the environmental, economic and social challenges that have been made more obvious by Covid-19.




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