Pandemic blamed for rise in food issues, but eating habits have improved – study

The Covid-19 crisis led to an unprecedented spike in food insecurity in the UK – but potentially an improvement in eating habits among those who had more free time, it was alleged.

According to a review by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Think Tank Demos, the problems were due to reduced income and limited access to affordable food.

Food insecurity is classified as lacking reliable access to sufficient amounts of affordable, nutritious food

An estimated 14 percent of households or four million people – including 2.3 million children – were affected by moderate or severe food insecurity in the six months after the lockdown began in March 2020, compared with 11.5 percent before the pandemic foundation charity found.

A survey conducted by the FSA found that 40 percent of people had bought groceries for someone who was self-isolating during the pandemic, and 23 percent had received this type of support for themselves.

Almost two-thirds agreed that “it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that nobody goes hungry”.

The study also suggests a shift in people’s diets during Covid-19. 32 percent of respondents said they ate healthier main meals, while 33 percent said they had unhealthy snacks.

Emily Miles, Executive Director of the FSA, said, “From this research, it appears that our experiences with food during the pandemic varied widely. While some have noted improvements in eating habits and possibly lifelong improvements in their diet, others have problems feeding themselves and their families.

“All of us in government must now think about what this means for the future of nutrition and public health.”

Rose Lasko-Skinner, lead researcher at Demos and co-author of the report, said, “Our research shows three major changes in people’s eating and consuming habits during the pandemic.

“The first is an unprecedented rise in food insecurity caused by new physical and financial barriers to buying food as a result of the pandemic. The second is a potential improvement in eating habits for those who have had more free time and more time at home.

“And the latest shift is a new consumer awareness where people wasted less food and bought and shopped more locally.”

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