Researchers study Covid-19 restrictions' impact on food practices

Wednesday 12 January 2022

Left to right - Dr Liz Dinnie, PhD student Josephine Heger,  Professor Flora Douglas
Robert Gordon University (RGU) and the James Hutton Institute are carrying out research on how Covid-19 restrictions impacted behaviours around food related practices. The study will look at the nature and extent of these changes across different social groups in the North East and especially those experiencing or anxious about food poverty.

The research is part of a PhD studentship awarded by the Macaulay Development Trust to Flora Douglas, a Professor of Public Health based at RGU’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedic Practice and Dr Liz Dinnie, a qualitative social researcher and Science Group Leader for People and Places at the James Hutton Institute.

The academics will supervise PhD student Josephine Heger as she explores the nature and extent of decision-making around obtaining food and feeding since the first lockdown in March 2020. More specifically, the PhD study will look at people's lived experiences to see whether those changes were sustained in the longer term.

A key focus will also be to examine the social, cultural, economic, and political reasons underlying decision-making about food. It is expected that the emerging findings will provide lessons for creating socially just and environmentally sustainable food systems across Scotland in a post-pandemic context.

Professor Douglas said: “Looking at food behaviours and how people manage disruptions to their ‘normal’ ways of obtaining food can provide important lessons for policy measures. Not only relating to food but to tackling intractable problems in other policy areas such as health, wellbeing, economic insecurity, community connections, loneliness, and isolation. Food is a cross-cutting policy issue that provides a bridge to address further issues.”

Dr Dinnie added: “There is enormous pressure to re-think food systems and the ways in which our food is produced, transported and consumed. This study into changing food practices during the pandemic will give valuable insights into how and why people make decisions relating to food, leading to greater understanding about how policy and public communication can most effectively influence those decisions with regard to environmental sustainability and social justice in the future.”

PhD student, Josephine Heger said: “During the pandemic, too many people have struggled to feed themselves and their families well. Understanding those experiences and strategies to cope with disruption, particularly in the context of food insecurity, is vital at a time when wider food systems transition towards sustainability and social justice is a pressing issue.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to this understanding through this PhD studentship with Robert Gordon University and the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen.” 

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