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Covid shapes new food habits

Over 19 million Brits are cooking more from scratch since the coronavirus lockdown while 17 million are throwing away less food, according to a new poll.

The new YouGov survey, which was commissioned by the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (FFCC), along with the charity The Food Foundation, said there are “significant changes to our relationship with food, family and the environment” emerging since lockdown.

The poll surveyed 4,343 UK adults between 7 and 9 April 2020, and results were weighted and extrapolated out to the rest of the adult population.

Cooking image by Martin Lopez
Scratch cooking and having a veg box delivery are new habits for many in the UK.

Other findings include six per cent (equating to three million people) who have tried a veg box scheme or ordered food from a local farm for the first time, while 42 per cent said they value food more than before.

Over half (51 per cent) say they have noticed cleaner air, and 27 per cent have seen more wildlife, since the lockdown began. Social bonds are stronger, with 40 per cent feeling a stronger sense of local community and 39 per cent said they are more in touch with friends and family.

Only nine per cent of Brits want the personal and social changes they have seen to return to normal, while 85 per cent say they would like them be permanent, leading experts to suggest this is a long-term shift in how people perceive food, farming, health and the environment.

“This research is showing that important changes are starting to take hold which government must use to guide future policy,” said Sue Pritchard, FFCC director.

Research lead for the RSA’s commission, Professor Tom MacMillan from the Royal Agricultural University, said: “This data shows there is a real appetite for change, and for the nation to learn from this crisis. People are trying new things and noticing differences, at home, in their work and in communities. 

"Alongside the emergency response, it is important keep track of these changes in what we’re doing and our collective mood, to help shape the kind of country we want to be, including the way want to feed ourselves, when we recover from this pandemic.”

Meanwhile food and farming businesses, and the food media, are already adapting to the new environment and interest in food. New cooking shows, including Jamie Oliver's Keep Cooking and Carry On, on Channel 4, are responding to the interest in flexible scratch cooking, while organic veg box company Riverford, which has seen unprecedented demand since the outbreak, has set up a new Veg Hub to help those who are new to a veg box.

"It's not always an easy shift, from buying whatever you want in a supermarket to having a set list of items delivered. Our new Veg Hub has help for specific seasonal vegetables, recipe inspiration, a sense of community, and all you need to live life on the veg," said Riverford co-owner, Emily Muddeman. 

The YouGov research is part of the RSA’s work on shaping a new vision for sustainable food and farming, land use and the rural economy, and follows research published over Easter that showed a sharp rise in food insecurity during lockdown.

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