Project PEDHSC11

The impact of COVID-19 on food systems and practices in the East of England

A qualitative study of how Covid-19 has affected the food and eating practices of people across the East of England.


Measures to control the spread of Covid-19 are impacting upon food systems, household food practices, and organisations supporting vulnerable people. Local councils are putting together regional multi-sector working groups to support those at risk and make sure they have enough food. 

    Project aims

    To understand how Covid-19 is affecting local food systems, household food practices across the life course, and local efforts to mitigate dietary health inequalities in the East of England.

    Project activity

    We started conducting in-depth telephone and video call interviews in May 2020 and we talked to:

    1. 80-100 East of England residents. We are focusing on: those with infants and young children; those aged 70 years+; those on a low income; families eligible for free school meals; households including people self-isolating due to a health condition; and households including key workers
    2. 40 – 60 professionals or volunteers based in the East of England, working with the above groups by providing support around dietary health

    What we found and what this means

    In June 2020 we presented preliminary findings at the ENUF conference (2nd UK Research Conference on Food and Poverty: Evidence for change and in September 2020 we published a report of our preliminary findings. These findings suggest that Covid-19 and the mitigation measures put in place from March 2020 (e.g. ‘lockdown’ and social distancing) are serving to amplify existing dietary health inequalities. Older people living alone and/or on low incomes have had to contend with difficulties in accessing food and a lack of opportunities to eat socially. Food banks have seen a rapid increase in need for their services and have had to change their operating practices. Despite ongoing difficulties, local groups across the region have devised a range of schemes to support and feed vulnerable people.

    This made local news and appeared on BBC Look East on Thursday the 8th of October featuring a package from one of our partners, Hertfordshire Independent Living Service and an interview with ARC EoE, Prevention and Early Detection Theme Lead, Professor Wendy Wills.

    The Impact of COVID-19 on Food and Eating in the East of England: Policy Briefings

    Since May 2020, we have interviewed East of England residents, community stakeholders and professionals involved in food provision about how people across the region are managing with their food and how they are being supported locally.

    We have developed a series of policy briefings tailored to four population groups and includes policy recommendations for their specific needs in relation to food and health inequalities:

    1. Mothers with Infants
    2. Families with School-aged Children
    3. People Living with Health Conditions
    4. Older People

    Access a PDF document with all four briefings here

    COVID-19 Food Study Interim Report

    Who is involved

    PrincipIe Investigator:

    Professor Wendy Wills, University of Hertfordshire (UH)

    Researchers and institutions:

    Contact us

    Corresponding researcher:

    Claire Thompson, University of Hertfordshire