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10 August 2020

Researchers receive grant to monitor responses to COVID-19 food insecurity crisis

A team of researchers, led by Dr Rachel Loopstra from the School of Life Course Sciences, along with colleagues at the University of Sheffield, have been awarded a ESRC grant to explore the handling of increased food insecurity in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Food insecurity

A significant proportion of people in the UK face food insecurity annually and this is estimated to have quadrupled throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. As a result, there has been much activity from governments, charities, and businesses to ensure the most vulnerable people in our society have access to food.

Multiple new schemes have been developed, from government food parcels for people who have been asked to shield to referrals for people to receive help with grocery shopping from a volunteer, working alongside existing provision for those unable to afford food – such as food banks. However, these initiatives have been largely uncoordinated.

A new project, funded by the UKRI Ideas to Address COVID-19 grant of £352,562, will monitor these reactions across various sectors to identify where responses have been comprehensive and where there have been gaps with people not being able to access sufficient food or financial resources to ensure their food security.

Co-led by Dr Rachel Loopstra from the School of Life Course Sciences at King’s and Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford from the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Sheffield, the research will complement previous work funded by a King’s Together COVID-19 grant to track vulnerability to food insecurity through secondary data analysis of polling data collected over the course of the crisis.

To ensure the research is relevant to people enacting responses and people who have been targeted by interventions, we are taking a collaborative approach, working with partners and stakeholders from various sectors, and with people with lived experiences of food insecurity during the pandemic. Civil society and business communities not only benefit by directly informing this work, but also from its evaluative and monitoring components, enabling them to identify and refine their efforts.

Dr Rachel Loopstra, School of Life Course Sciences

As the longer-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic unfold, and with the potential for future localised lockdowns, through publishing ongoing monitoring reports, the team will also inform the development of new responses to food insecurity over the course of the crisis.

We are currently in the first phase of the research, gathering evidence from across national and devolved governments, third sector organisations and businesses to map the full scale of responses to threats to food security since the onset of the pandemic in the UK. Next, we will be launching case studies in eight local authorities from across each constituent country in the UK to explore differences in responses at the local level.

Dr Rachel Loopstra, School of Life Course Sciences

The project will last 18 months, ending in January 2022, with the overall aim to be able to inform food access policy and practice.

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Affiliate Lecturer in Nutrition