Has COVID-19 pandemic changed your food habits?

Hutton researchers and their colleagues across Europe have launched a large-scale study of the pandemic’s impact on how people relate to food.

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Researchers have launched a study to find out if  COVID-19 is changing people’s relationship with food.

Questions they will be answering include  how have eating, cooking and food purchasing habits changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures not just in the UK but Europe and much of the world.

The Dundee-based James Hutton Institute is part of an EU consortium behind the new international study and they want your help.

A questionnaire open to anyone over the age of 18  can be accessed by visiting www.food-covid-19.org. The survey is open until the end of June.

Social media suggests more people are buying locally produced food, yet supermarkets and online retailers are still experiencing record growth so it seems food-related habits have changed because of COVID-19, and in different ways.

The large-scale study of the pandemic’s impact on how people relate to food in time of crisis will also look at food waste. Scientists are particularly interested in finding out if people are adopting more sustainable behaviours, and to see if they keep up those habits once the pandemic has passed.

Dr Liz Dinnie, a social researcher leading the research at the James Hutton Institute, said: ‘We are currently experiencing unprecedented circumstances where most people are forced to spend much more time at home. That also means many people eat more meals at home than before the lockdown. So far, we have no idea what consequences that has, for example in terms of how balanced the diets are, or how food systems in rural and urban areas might be affected. There are many contradictory trends, for instance a focus on healthy eating for strengthening the immune system, yet an increase in the sales of sweets, chocolate and snacks.

‘With our research, we want to find out how food-related habits are changing in the population and what this means more widely, particularly in terms of food systems, sustainability and for tackling food poverty. We hope the results will give recommendations to decision-makers in the food sector and at policy level on how to respond to changes and make food systems fit for future food-related habits following the current pandemic. In Scotland this will include recommendations under the Good Food Nation Bill, which aims to put social justice and sustainability at the heart of Scotland’s food systems.’

Professor Colin Campbell, the Institute’s Chief Executive, added: ‘It is only through understanding the changes taking place at this time that we can help to design food systems and value chains that are both socially just and environmentally sustainable.’

The survey can be accessed at www.food-covid-19.org.