Coronavirus: Public flock to buy direct from farms

Millions of people have started buying vegetable boxes and food direct from the farm because of the coronavirus pandemic, suggests a survey.

Some 42% of people say the pandemic has changed the way they view food – with 42% valuing it more as an essential.

The finding is contained in a YouGov survey that was commissioned by the Royal Society for the Arts (RSA) and the Food Foundation.

See also: Farmers appeal to public to buy British food

Sue Pritchard, of the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said the survey raised important questions about agriculture and the food supply chain.

“How we value food is changing; we’re cooking more from scratch and sourcing our food from different places,” she said.

Food system

“Three million people have tried a veg box scheme or are buying direct from farm – both to get what we need and to support the local community.”

The speed at which the coronavirus pandemic had caused people to adapt reflected in part how brittle parts of the food system had become, said Ms Pritchard.

“Farmers and others in food industry are now ‘key workers’ – but our supply chains leave little wriggle room, and most of our farmers rely on very few routes to market.

“If those fail, they can’t sell their produce, and consumers and producers lose out.

“The sight of dairy farmers having to throw milk away, while some families are struggling to afford enough of the nutritious food they need is, rightly, shocking.”

World leader

Food security at a national level is a strategic priority for the government and the UK has the capability to become a world leader in healthy, sustainable food production, she said.

“Farmers can be a force for wider economic, public health and environmental benefits,” added Ms Pritchard, who suggested new investment is needed.

“Local supply networks and community groups are making what could be lasting changes with scant infrastructure and resources.”

She added: “The crisis was providing the opportunity to reconsider what and how we value the part farming and the countryside plays in our lives, and in keeping us well. And more than that, to check – and reset – our compass.”

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