Sector Forecast: UK Food System in a Pandemic 2020
Published 2021 - Report Highlights
This Insight report provides detailed snapshots of people’s experiences of the food system during the 2020/21 pandemic
This report explores several key parts of the food system: food insecurity, diet and eating habits, and food supply. In each of these areas, we have sought to build on the evidence base around how people and their behaviours have changed during the pandemic.
As a consequence, this research provides one of the most detailed snapshots of people’s experiences of the food system, from food supply to diet during the pandemic; in addition to capturing their attitudes and areas of consensus going forward.
Drawing on mixed methods, the report details the findings across four areas:
(1) A strengthened evidence base on the underlying psychology of food in the UK. This sets the scene, before exploring changes to public attitudes to food in the pandemic.
(2) Built on the understanding of food insecurity during the pandemic, the report explores the extent to which citizens have been involved in tackling new forms of food insecurity. In addition, the findings sought to better understand the public’s attitudes towards the future role of government, communities, individuals and businesses in tackling food insecurity.
(3) The report looks at eating habits and healthy eating, considering how restrictions such as working from home and staying at home might have changed people’s habits and how these might then have impacted their diet and health. Similar to our questions for the future of food insecurity, the report considers public preferences about the future of food policy in this area and how these interact with wider views about the
role of government, business, communities and individuals.
(4) The report also highlights the extent to which people have shopped more locally during the pandemic and their desire to become more self-sufficient as a nation after the pandemic.
Key findings from the report:
The psychology of food in the UK
A. People in the UK tend to have positive attitudes towards food. When asked people (in the poll of 10,000 UK adults) what they think of when they think about food, the stats show that people are most likely to think of positive things:
• 64% said a source of comfort.
• 62% said family time.
• 51% said a luxury to treat yourself.
• 47% said time with friends.
B. There are strong differences in the relationships different groups have with food, with important implications to help guide future interventions, for example around public health. In particular, young people are much more likely than older people to have more negative psychological relationships with food, seeing it as a form of stress relief, and
associating it with a struggle to eat healthily.
The poll found:
• 50% of those aged 18-24 think of food as a “struggle to eat healthily” compared with 15% of those aged 65 and over.
• 59% of those aged 18-24 who think of food as a “form of stress relief” compared with 22% of those aged 65 and over.
In addition, people in receipt of benefits or with children on free school meals are far more likely to see food as an “annoying necessity”:
• 41% of those in receipt of benefits before the pandemic and 39% of those with children eligible for free school meals think of food as an annoying
necessity, compared with 16% of those who are not on benefits and 21% not eligible for free school meals.