Covid-19 has affected our access to food. For weeks we saw empty supermarket shelves due to a combination of stockpiling and panic buying by consumers and sensitive supermarket supply chains. The sudden increase in purchasing, higher and more prolonged than at peak Christmas periods, alongside a disrupted supply chain led to empty shelves and restrictions on items we could purchase.
The UK imports 48% of its food and so a disrupted supply chain led to a lack of access to certain foods. Staples like pasta and flour were stockpiled leaving many vulnerable groups without access to the essentials they rely on, and food banks were unable to access the foods they provide due to empty shelves and bulk buying restrictions.
The availability of food was further reduced by school closures meaning children lost access to school meals and breakfast clubs and child malnutrition has doubled in the last six months. The reluctance of some governments to extend free school meals beyond term time was met with a major public outcry and local council support. Those required to self-isolate have faced additional barriers due to being unable to enter shops and the extreme difficulty of obtaining an online delivery slot. Shopping online also means paying delivery charges and there is usually a minimum spend for delivery.
Key workers initially faced the barrier of supermarkets reducing their opening hours – meaning they were often closed before their shifts were finished. An ongoing concern as we ease out of lockdown is the millions who have lost income due to reduced working hours or unemployment. Insufficient income is a driver of foodbank use. A Trussell Trust Report from September 2020 indicates huge increases in the need for food parcels since the onset of the pandemic in the UK, with many households being driven to seek out food bank support for the first time.
Mintel survey of 2000 UK adults: 17% said they had been eating more tinned food since the start of lockdown, 55% said they were cooking more from scratch, and 69% reported wasting less food.