COVID-19: Food and Nutrition Security during and after the COVID-19 Pandemic

Lead Research Organisation: The James Hutton Institute
Department Name: Information & Computational Sciences


The COVID-19 pandemic is having substantial consequences on UK and global food and nutrition security (FNS). This project will undertake world-leading research to provide government, business and decision makers with the evidence that they need to develop a robust FNS response to the current pandemic.
The pandemic is causing major shocks to the four pillars of FNS: access; availability; utilisation and stability. Examples include reductions in productivity (labour limitations), breakdown of norms of food systems (distribution, changed demand) and supply chain restrictions (e.g. shortages of agri-chemicals for crop management). Economic impacts are altering both supply, distribution and demand. Collectively these shocks are substantially altering food systems whilst in the longer-term normal processes of trade may not adapt appropriately leading to changes in the balance of traded commodities, reduction in food reserves and price increases.

The issue of FNS is relevant to all members of society, particularly for those most vulnerable to shortages or price increases. The food sector is also a major part of the UK economy, as it contributes approximately £111 billion a year and accounts for over 13% of national employment. It is the UK's largest manufacturing sector.

The project focusses on UK FNS which is heavily dependent on global markets. Nearly half of the food we consume is imported and UK livestock industries rely heavily on imported feed. Some countries have already restricted exports in order to supply home markets. Normal market forces, transportation and distribution networks may no longer be appropriate to provide national requirements. A priority is to understand how to increase capacity for self-reliance to maintain civic stability, a healthy population and to understand the ramifications for third countries. The aim of this study is to conduct an initial rapid FNS risk assessment and explore options for changes in agricultural production, trade and distribution to protect FNS without jeopardising wider ecological and climate goals.

The Research Programme will deliver seven key outputs:
1. Report on rapid risk assessment of the global food system considering how direct and indirect COVID-19 impacts and responses are propagating risks to food and nutrition security.
2. Report on Rapid risk assessment of UK food system responses and vulnerabilities and consequences on access, availability, utilisation and stability.
3. A set of plausible scenarios to explore the cascading risks and consequences of pandemic impacts on food sand nutrition security.
4. Report on alternative land use and management options that will increase resilience.
5. Report and maps of the spatial assessment of the alternative land use and management options.
6. Report including infographics reviewing lessons learned from the pandemic to improve Food and Nutrition Security.
7. Two workshops and other dissemination events and report with recommendations.

The knowledge and foresight generated will be applicable to and of value across multiple sectors of the economy. It will inform policy support and development within UK and devolved Governments and help industry and business make informed decisions and plan adaptations. Information generated will support the UK's strong position in global trade. Identifying data gaps now will enable improved monitoring of impacts, both at UK and global scales.


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