Coronavirus (Covid-19) is having huge impacts on the food system here in the UK and globally. It is bringing into sharp focus how and where our food is produced, processed and consumed. It has also highlighted a number of issues, including the:

  • Vulnerability of just-in-time systems, that in some cases stretch far beyond UK borders, to unpredictable shocks. It reminds us of past catastrophic events, such as foot and mouth in 2001 and the 2007-08 food price spikes;
  • Differentiated nature of impacts within agri-food (contrast retailer (multiples and independents) and food service experiences of the crisis, for example);
  • Labour shortages in the horticultural sector;
  • Number of vulnerable groups who are now more than ever before food insecure, given their dependency on food banks and charity and the significant socio-economic food inequalities in society;
  • Role of supermarkets in food provisioning (we have a private food governance model) and their role and responsibilities in responding to the crisis;
  • Role and importance of online retail, including, but not only, online supermarket retail;
  • Agility and ability (or not) of producers, processors, retailers and other food providers to adapt their supply chains to deliver food direct to households;
  • Need to re-localise food systems, rebuild regional processing infrastructure (abattoirs, wholesale markets) and shorten food chains to improve food system resilience;
  • Range of public, private and civic initiatives (at individual, industry and community levels) that have, and are still emerging, to respond to the crisis.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, it is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impacts, actions, activities and food policy lessons.

We hope that you will find this resource both interesting and useful, and welcome additional contributions to the resource list and our blog posts on this topic – please do get in touch.

We would also like to share with those who access this resource that our close colleagues at Pisa Agricultural Economics (PAGE) will also be publishing a series of blogs related to how the Covid-19 crisis could lead to more resilient food systems. The core research areas of PAGE of socio-economic research in agriculture, food, and rural development align closely with future developments in food systems post Covid-19. These blogs can be accessed on the PAGE website.

Resource Library

Uncertainty, pragmatism, the futilities of control and neoliberal economics

Post-normal pandemics

Modelling, social science and animal health links

Past (and future?) studies of pandemics, including networked disease

The Covid-19 vaccine and vaccines (selective items)

The psychology of 'together apart'

Academic expertise - across disciplines, beyond 'science' and interdisciplinarity; plus the gender gaps in COVID-19 decision-making


Contexualising Coronavirus Geographically

Human infectious disease and global population

Viewing the pandemic impact through the lens of the SDGs

Disaster resilience

The Slowdown Papers and Times of COVID-19

The fruit and vegetable harvest, labour shortages and automation

Feed The Nation campaign

  • Concordia is running a new Land Army-style ‘Feed The Nation’ campaign (20.04.2020)
  • Concordia coordinated a similar campaign in 1943 to recruit volunteers to feed the nation (volunteers were famously described as ‘The Land Army’). The new scheme needs 80,000 workers. The challenge will be to find the right people (particularly in terms of skills, because picking fruit and vegetables is skilled and increasingly specialist work).
  • Useful list of agencies that link workers with farms (20.04.2020).

Pick For Britain

Labour shortages (New Zealand dairy, veterinary workforce and strawberry farms, Costa Rican coffee, UK poultry (Christmas turkeys))

Workers' rights

Agri-food labour in the US (esp. meat processing, harvested crops)

Vaccination of key workers in the food chain (UK and US articles)

Humanitarian crisis in ag. commodity chains (Fairtrade Foundation)

International Labour Migration to Europe’s Rural Regions

  • Great new open access book about labour migration, including excellent agri-labour chapters. Edited by Johan Fredrik Rye and Karen O'Reilly; great chapter on agri-labour issues in the UK by Keith Halfacree (thanks @GarethEnticott for sending the link) (09.11.2020).

Obesity Strategy





  • Consumer behaviour evolution linked to the usual spending out of home (Kantar Worldpanel):

Dairy farming crisis and milk waste

Milk Your Moment Campaign and positive dairy sales

Vending machines, direct selling and networked dairy farm models

Hardship fund for dairy farmers

Artisan cheese producers

Farmers as ‘hidden heroes’

Valuing and supporting farmers

Consumer spending (lamb, beef, dairy and meat-free products)

Unwanted potatoes (food hospitality supply chain closure) and cider apples

Venison sales and wild deer management


'Self-sufficiency day' (August 21)

Covid-19, gender and agriculture

Rural and farmer vulnerability and planning for 'unexpected events'

Farm diversification and producer collaboration

Covid-19 and UK-EU trade talks (Brexit)

Agri-food support packages and 2020 agricultural accounts (Eurostat)

US relief packages:

Farming Health Hub: COVID-19 Support and Advice

Demand for lifestyle and amenity farms

Covid-19 is a demand rather than a supply shock?

Digitalisation of agriculture and rural economies

Small-scale farmer incomes / resilience (global)

Global supply chains and market systems

Liverpool - England's first 'right to food' city


EFRA inquiry - food insecurity sessions and COVID-19 and Food Supply Report

Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment

Government announcement to support food charities

Community responses

School meals and school and university catering

Legal action to secure school meals over the summer months

Other devolved nations re. extending school meals through the summer:

Marcus Rashford-led free school meals campaigns and child food insecurity

Food parcels, the free school meals debate during February half-term and calls for long-term free school meals policy, #lockdown 3

Reliance on EU food chains, Brexit and food security

France's Covid freight ban

National Food Strategy

  • National Food Strategy - Part One (great to see this out; at a glance it looks excellent; major focus is children's health (and related obesity and food poverty), which are emergency issues highlighted and accentuated by Covid-19; plus trade (post-Brexit standards)) (29.07.2020).
  • National Food Strategy - Part One - YouTube (29.07.2020).
  • @HenryDimbleby speaks with Tim Field [@daylesfordfarm] - The Future of Food Episode One (overview of Part One of NFS, including links to COVID, with wider remarks re organics/agroecology, food waste, true cost accounting, system complexity) (21.09.2020).

Selection of key media articles reporting on the strategy's main messages/ambitions:

Sustainable food organisation responses:

Other resources and articles (media, academic)

The need for basic income support not food charity (Canada & the US, including other food access-related articles)

Hacking food chains, food system innovations, food sharing

Food Policy Councils
  • Video from the Johns Hopkins Center reports on ways food policy councils in the US are shifting their strategies to address increased food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Case studies from Montgomery County Food Council (Maryland), the Dubuque County Food Policy Council (Iowa), and the Detroit Food Policy Council (Michigan) (13.06.2020).

Covid-19 expert database and Food Systems Handbook (open source project)

Food policy co-ordination

Mapping unhealthy food commodity industry responses

  • This is a mapping tool created by the NCD alliance to track how business are responding to COVID-19 and impacts on non-communicable disease In particular they track how COVID-19 may be used opportunistically by some food manufacturers/suppliers who promote unhealthy foods. Thanks to Dave Watson for sharing this (accessed: 09.05.2020).

  • Signalling Virtue, Promoting Harm - Unhealthy commodity industries and COVID-19, NCD Alliance (@ncdalliance @SPECTRUMRes report; shows the different ways some big food businesses are promoting unhealthy / processed food during COVID-19) (17.09.2020).

  • New report: Big Food vs. Public Health During the Pandemic (via Marion Nestle's excellent Food Politics page) (The report shows how Big Food took advantage of the pandemic for marketing, with examples of nutri-washing, positioning of processed brands and using charity to donate junk food) (20.11.2020).

Shortening supply chains (regional resilience) and online platforms

Local food organisation listings in the UK (on-line platforms, direct sales directories, buy local listings, etc.)

A more critical relocalisation perspective




Food system organisations

Food, farming and the rural economy

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)

National Food Strategy

Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee

Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment Committee

Covid-19 research project tracker and ESRC-funded food system projects

Food in the time of lockdown

  • Cool project led by the University of Chester (Dept of Music, Media and Performance) called 'Food in the time of lockdown (FINTOL)'. Aims to be a 'gathering point for all of the food-related stories, films and images that people have written or captured for posterity' (29.07.2020).

Meat & food processing plants (US, UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil)



Germany, France, the Netherlands:

Australia and Brazil:

Not just meat!

Independent meat processors

Supply chain vulnerability and market impacts

Concerns about food fraud

Big food brands moving online

Trade in high-value horticultural exports (Kenya to European supermarkets)

Rural-urban relations