The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a fundamental shift at how consumers perceive the food and nutrition industry, with workers viewed as key workers crucial to our health and wellbeing for the first time. Will this new perception mean that, once the pandemic is over, we see a more fair and sustainable food supply chain in the UK? At the moment, charities and advocacy groups are arguing that it is the perfect time to debate how the food supply chain should look for the future.
People and businesses are ready to build back better
Speaking to the Guardian, Sue Pritchard, the chief executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said: “The pandemic has exposed the faultlines in our food system.
“We’ve seen big gaps in availability of food, especially for the poor and vulnerable, and significant economic impacts on producers. This crisis demonstrates that people and business are ready to build back better.”
The Guardian has reported that the crisis in food supplies caused by the pandemic came as the agriculture bill, the biggest change to British agriculture and food production since 1945, was reaching its final stages in the House of Commons.
The Tenant Farmers Association is calling for the bill’s introduction to be delayed until 2022 while farmers, producers and experts reflect on the problems exposed by the pandemic.
An inquiry has been set up by the environment, food and rural affairs committee to analyse how Covid-19 has affected the food system. In its evidence, the TFA said the crisis exposed how inflexible the system was. Farmers who supplied to restaurants and takeaways had their outlets cut off, and were unable to divert their produce to people who needed it.
“At a time when consumers were queueing up at retailers keen to buy meat, dairy and fresh produce, it was unacceptable that this demand was unfulfilled despite the fact that sufficient quantities of food were available in the country.”
An opportunity to reshape supply chains
Feedback, an environmental charity, said: “There is a chance for the government to treat this moment of crisis as an opportunity to reshape supply chains in ways that will be helpful in the long-term for supporting producers and reducing the environmental impacts of food production.”
Anna Taylor, the executive director of the Food Foundation, said the Covid-19 pandemic was having a material impact on what millions of adults and children were able to eat.
“We desperately need a social security system which protects everyone’s right to good food, now and in the future. The system must support those who have gone into this crisis already struggling, and the millions more who have been added to their number. What we eat remains fundamentally important for our health: we need to rebuild our food system so that good food, which helps us stay healthy, is the norm.”