The Covid-19 pandemic has altered the perception, understanding and experience of food insecurity in the UK. While the issue of food insecurity is not new, the pandemic brought about a dramatic increase in both the need and demand for emergency food aid, driven by difficulties in accessibility, availability, utilisation and stability, the four pillars of food insecurity (FAO, 2006).
In many areas this demand was several times higher than pre-pandemic and affected many who had previously never experienced food insecurity (BHFP, 2020; Lambie-Mumford, et al., 2020; Macaninch, et al., 2020; Trussell Trust, 2020). The necessity to address the increased demand required the rapid and unprecedented scaling up of provisions, operations, and organisational capabilities by the variety of actors responsible for emergency food aid, including local authorities, food partnerships, food banks, and distributors of surplus food.
This talk examines how these actors managed and responded to the challenge of providing emergency food aid during the pandemic, focusing on two geographic regions: South West London and Sussex. The main argument advanced is that the pandemic acted as a catalyst to bring about dramatic changes to the provision of emergency food aid in the UK.
The organisations we engaged with responded to the pandemic by changing and innovating their operations and practices. The reasons why this is important to highlight are that the pandemic caused organisations to not only rethink how best to provide emergency food aid and respond to increasing food insecurity, but also to think more broadly about issues, such as poverty alleviation, climate change, food waste, sustainability, and the circular economy.
Ronald Ranta is a senior lecturer in politics and international relations at Kingston University London, and the co-editor of the Palgrave book series on food and identity in a globalised world. He has written a number of books and articles focusing on the questions of ‘who eats what, when, why, where and how’. His research is influenced by his former career as a chef and his volunteering with the UK food charity FareShare. His current research focuses primarily on food security in the UK in the context of the Pandemic and Brexit.
This research includes a study of how the pandemic affected emergency food aid provision, and a pilot project looking at the potential role of ethnic and migrant food shops in enabling post-pandemic recovery. His most recent books include: ‘Going Native’? Settler Colonialism and Food (Palgrave, forthcoming); From the Arab Other to the Israeli Self: Palestinian Culture in the Making of Israeli National Identity (London, Routledge); and Food, National identity and Nationalism: From the Everyday to the Global (London, Palgrave Macmillan), the second edition of which will be published later this year.