Millions of people now buying food from farms, survey finds

The survey's results show that more British people are supporting the local community and economy
The survey's results show that more British people are supporting the local community and economy

Millions of British people have tried a vegetable box scheme or are buying direct from the farm as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, a new survey shows.

The outbreak has changed how the public value food as an essential, according to the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) and the Food Foundation.

More than 19 million British people (38%) say they are cooking more from scratch and 17 million are throwing away less food (33%).

Meanwhile, 6 percent - 3 million people - have tried a veg box scheme or ordered food from a local farm for the very first time.

And one in ten people have shared food or shopping with a neighbour for the first time, the YouGov survey highlights.

Sue Pritchard, of the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said the results show that more people are supporting the local community.

"How we value food is changing, we’re cooking more from scratch and sourcing our food from different places," she said.

"Three million people have tried a veg box scheme or are buying direct-from-farm both to get what we need and to support the local community."

Fast societal adaptations caused by the spread of the coronavirus shows how 'brittle' parts of the food system have become.

Farmers and others in food industry are now ‘keyworkers’, but supply chains are leaving little wriggle room and most of producers rely on few routes to market.

"If those fail, they can’t sell their produce, and consumers and producers lose out," Ms Pritchard said.

"The sight of dairy farmers having to throw milk away, whilst some families are struggling to afford enough of the nutritious food they need is, rightly, shocking."

In a separate report, the Nature Friendly Farming Network recently said the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of prioritising a sustainable and localised food supply chain.

It urged the public to buy food straight from a local and sustainable farming business as farmers need consumer support 'more than ever'.

Ms Pritchard expanded on this, raising the question if the UK should be importing less and growing more as food security becomes a strategic priority for government.

"Farmers can be a force for wider economic, public health and environmental benefits. Local supply networks and community groups are making what could be lasting changes with scant infrastructure and resources," she said.

"What role could they play in the recovery phase and longer term in ensuring rural economies thrive? How do we secure more investment for ecological farming systems, producing healthy food while enhancing the environment?"

The survey also found a majority (85%) want to see some of the personal or social changes they have experienced continue afterwards, whilst just 9% want everything to go back to how it was before the pandemic.

The survey, undertaken by YouGov, had a total sample size of 4343 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7 - 9 April 2020.