RSA and Food Foundation survey shows changes in citizen attitudes to the food system

A YouGov survey commissioned jointly by the RSA’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission and the Food Foundation has found that COVID-19 and lockdown are impacting on societal attitudes towards food, the environment, and day-to-day life in general.

The poll finds a clear majority (85%) want to see at least some of changes they have experienced continue afterwards, while just 9% want a complete return to life exactly as it was before lockdown.

The survey also identifies other changes in attitudes towards food, family and the environment:

  • 51% say they have noticed cleaner air, and 27% more wildlife, since the lockdown began
  • Social bonds are stronger, with 40% feeling a stronger sense of local community and 39% more in touch with friends and family
  • 42% say the outbreak has made them value food more, and one in ten have shared something like food or shopping with a neighbour for the first time
  • More than 19 million (38%) say they are cooking more from scratch and 17 million are throwing away less food (33%).
  • 6%, or 3 million people, have tried a veg box scheme or ordered food from a local farm for the very first time
  • But although 9% feel fitter and 27% are getting more exercise, more people (36%) say they are getting less exercise than before.

With 30% of calories usually eaten out of the home, the closure of restaurants, pubs, school and workplace canteens in line with social distancing measures is clearly having a profound impact on where and how people prepare their food. Shortages of products such as eggs and flour appear to be linked to a surge in home baking according to The Grocer (with sourdough and banana bread proving particularly popular on social media channels), which also tallies with the current shift towards home cooking evidenced in the survey results.

Similarly, continued pressure on supermarket supplies, in addition to the government suggesting that people should shop as infrequently as possible appear to be encouraging more people to reduce household food waste and to obtain food through different sales channels – such as veg boxes.

With many working in food, health, and sustainability hopeful that these changes will help to guide future food system policy, it remains to be seen whether these changes will persist once lockdown measures lift and meals are once again eaten out of the home.

View our COVID-19 tracker in full.