Food vulnerability during COVID-19

This UKRI funded research project maps and monitor responses addressing concerns about insufficient food access during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Small mixed race group of people working in charitable foundation food bank

During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments, local authorities, charities and local communities have been working to ensure access to food for those facing new risks of food insecurity due to being unable to go out for food or to income losses arising from the COVID-19 crisis. New schemes have been developed, such as governments replacing incomes of people at risk of unemployment on account of the lockdown, 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 have been working alongside existing provision for those unable to afford food – such as food banks – which has also seen a dramatic rise in demand since the crisis began.

The result has been a complex set of support structures which have been developing and changing as the COVID-19 outbreak, and its impacts, evolve.

The project will run from July 2020 to January 2022 and is led by researchers at the University of Sheffield and King’s College London working with partners Church Action on Poverty and Sustain.

There are three aspects to the research:

  1. national level mapping and monitoring will be done in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as at a UK level;
  2. as part of this a national panel will be convened of people who have lived experience of receiving support to access food during the COVID-19 outbreak;
  3. local area research will involve 8 in-depth case studies as well as secondary analysis of data at a local authority level across the UK.

The project therefore aims to provide collaborative, real time monitoring and analysis of food support systems to inform food access policy and practice as the COVID-19 outbreak and its health, social and economic dimensions evolve.

Go to the project website 

Research from this project was presented at the Institute for Sustainable Food's Planet to Plate Festival.

Hannah Lambie-Mumford with Rachel Loopstra and Katy Gordon discuss the government’s response to COVID-19 and its implications for household food insecurity in the UK.

Centres of excellence

The University's cross-faculty research centres harness our interdisciplinary expertise to solve the world's most pressing challenges.