Food vulnerability during COVID-19
This research project mapped and monitored responses to household food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, local authorities, charities and local communities worked to ensure access to food for those facing new risks of food insecurity due to being unable to go out for food or due to income losses arising from the crisis. New schemes were developed, such as governments replacing incomes of people at risk of unemployment on account of lockdowns, providing food parcels for people asked to shield, referrals for people to receive voluntary help with grocery shopping, and free school meals replacement vouchers or cash transfers. These worked alongside existing provision for those unable to afford food – such as food banks – which have been adapting their services to continue to meet increasing demand from a range of population groups. This resulted in a complex set of support structures which developed and changed as the COVID-19 pandemic, and its impacts, evolved.
About the project
The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) through the UKRI Ideas to Address COVID-19 grant call and ran for two years from July 2020. The research aimed to provide collaborative monitoring and analysis of food support systems to inform food access policy and practice. The research team was led by the University of Sheffield and King’s College London alongside colleagues from Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming and Church Action on Poverty. Full details of the team are below. Collaboration with partners and stakeholders was at the heart of the project. The research team worked with stakeholders from national and local government, the civil service, third sector, NGOs as well as people who were accessing food and financial assistance during the pandemic.
The End of project summary of key findings were published in August 2022. Details of the workpackages and research reports can be found below.
Project work packages
Work package 1: National level food access systems mapping and monitoring
Looking at food access support across the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic, national level mapping and monitoring was undertaken in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as at a UK level. National level stakeholders (for example from devolved governments and national voluntary organisations) from across the four nations worked with us to understand and monitor how support for food access has operated and evolved across the UK.
Work package 1 publications:
- Mapping responses to the risk of rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis across the UK (published August 2020)
- Monitoring responses to the risk of rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis across the UK (published December 2020)
- Mapping and monitoring responses to the risk of rising food insecurity during the COVID-19 crisis across the UK - Autumn 2020 to Summer 2021 (published August 2022)
Work package 2: Participatory Policy Panel
To fully understand food access responses, it was crucial to hear directly from those with lived experience of food insecurity during the pandemic. In partnership with Church Action on Poverty, we convened a participatory policy panel made up of people who have direct experience of a broad range of support to access food. Meeting regularly throughout the project (Oct 2020-Dec 2021), the panel used a range of participatory and creative methods to share and reflect on their experiences and contribute these to policy recommendations.
Work package 2 publications:
- Navigating Storms (published October 2021)
- Food Experiences During COVID-19 Participatory Panel Deliberative Policy Engagement (published August 2022)
- Food Experiences During COVID-19 - Participatory Methods in Practice: Key Learning (published August 2022)
Work package 3: Local area case studies
Fourteen local areas across the UK were the focus for more in depth case study research. Working with local stakeholders in each area, the research mapped what local responses looked like and how they operated. The research followed the developments in these areas throughout the duration of the project.
Work package 3 publications:
- Comparing local responses to household food insecurity during COVID-19 across the UK (March – August 2020) – Executive Summary (published July 2021)
- Comparing local responses to household food insecurity during COVID-19 across the UK (March – August 2020) (published July 2021).
- Eight local case study reports covering responses in those areas between March and August 2020: Argyll and Bute, Belfast, Cardiff, Derry and Strabane, Herefordshire, Moray, Swansea, West Berkshire (published July 2021).
- Local Area Case Studies – Methodological Appendix (published July 2021)
- Local responses to household food insecurity during COVID-19 across the UK (March – August 2020): Full report (published July 2021)
- Local responses to household food insecurity across the UK during COVID-19 (September 2020 – September 2021) (published February 2022)
- Local responses to household food insecurity across the UK during COVID-19 (September 2020 – September 2021) - Executive Summary (published February 2022)
The project was undertaken with ethical approval from the University of Sheffield (035805).
Meeting food vulnerability needs during COVID-19: applying a systems approach to evidence based policy and practice
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- The project has ethical approval and the number is included in the description field
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