Impact of COVID-19 lockdowns on sustainable nutrition

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Many countries across the world instituted a degree of lockdown this year to minimise the harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – but what effect does a lockdown have on nutrition and sustainable food production?

The impact of the Spanish lockdown during March and April 2020 on nutrition has recently been investigated by researchers from multiple Spanish and international universities. They found that the amount of food purchased increased slightly during the lockdown (from 13.8 to 14.3 kg per person per week). Plant foods were the major part of the increase, followed by eggs and red meat. Beer and coffee purchasing decreased, possibly due to the closing of restaurants and bars.

Food energy intake increased by 6% during the lockdown compared to the same period in previous years, while the nutritional quality of the lockdown diet was 5% lower. The environmental footprint of the lockdown diet was also greater than pre-lockdown: increases were found for water use, land use and global warming potential.

While this study only considered the impact of the Spanish lockdown, the trends are likely to be true for lockdowns in many countries. The results of this research highlight that changes to the global food system must take into consideration the potential for unexpected events to disrupt progress towards sustainable nutrition.

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