St. Angela's College contributes to Global Research Project

Jan 07 2021 Posted: 11:26 GMT

St. Angela’s College together with the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queens University Belfast, collaborated in a survey earlier this year when many countries were under some form of lockdown and used a sample of 2,360 adults across four regions - the island of Ireland; Great Britain; USA; and New Zealand. The main findings have now been published in the Nutrients journal titled “Changes in Consumers’ Food Practices during the COVID-19 Lockdown, Implications for Diet Quality and the Food System: A Cross-Continental Comparison”

This specific type of research is believed to be the first published across multiple continents on changing food practices due to COVID-19.

How we shop for food, cook and eat has changed significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic. And positive changes such as an increase in home-cooking and cooking from scratch with fresh ingredients were recorded. However, there were also negative trends, such as a reported increase in saturated-fat intake. A spike in bulk buying - which causes pressure on already-stressed food systems and can lead to shortages, triggering further panic-buying - was also observed during the study.

Overall, there were fewer changes in food behaviours in the USA compared to the other three regions and the most marked differences between regions occurred between the USA and elsewhere. For example, an increase in vegetable intake was evidenced across all regions except the USA. There was also an upturn in home-cooking and home-baking frequency in all regions except the USA.

Parents cooking (and baking) with children was also found to increase in all samples except the USA (interestingly, parents who included their children in the preparation of family meals more frequently had a higher diet quality).Conversely, though, an increase in saturated-fat intake was seen everywhere except the USA.

Overall, there was a decrease in the consumption of takeaway food and a rise in ‘organisational food practices’ (planning ahead, shopping with a grocery list, etc). When it came to ‘management food practices’ (preparing in advance, batch cooking, etc), however, there were no changes apparent for Ireland or New Zealand. This may be connected to the fact that Irish and NZ restrictions were stricter than in other areas, so there may have been less of a need to prepare food in advance.

Amanda McCloat, St. Angela’s College President and Dr Elaine Mooney, Lecturer in the School of Home Economics at the College, provided valuable insight and a wealth of knowledge and experience as contributors to the research.
“In such exceptional times it is important to focus on our own continued health and wellbeing in the face of a global pandemic and this begins at home with the fundamentals of healthy eating and a balanced diet” explains Amanda McCloat. “The evidence is clear that changes in food consumer practices and trends varied between regions which indicates a cultural shift in attitudes towards eating habits. With the likelihood of more people working from home this year we would hope to see a continuation of children being encouraged and involved more in home-cooking and home-baking”.

Lead researcher on the project, Dr Fiona Lavelle from IGFS said: “These findings not only provide crucial data for how our food behaviours and systems have adapted to the pandemic but they have important implications for public health as we continue to try to manage COVID-19 with ongoing lockdowns and restrictions. “We wanted to find out what impact the pandemic and lockdowns were having on people’s health but we also wanted to try to find a way of measuring the effect on global food systems.”

The full Research Project can be downloaded HERE