Food Farming & Countryside Commission

A Better Normal

Next week, the UK is about to take a big step forward towards what we once considered normalcy. Meeting friends at the pub, taking the family to a restaurant, or having friends inside for a cuppa – this will all be possible once again as the UK progresses on its roadmap to reopening. With these new changes, let us remember what we’ve been through to get here, and also how we want life to be in the future. The pandemic has changed society, for the good and bad, but there are new habits or ways of daily life that we want to stick with us as we get back to normal.

The Food, Farming and Countryside Commission enacted research over the past year that demonstrates that UK life is, “seeing radical lifestyle changes at the drop of a hat.” In partnership with YouGov, they polled 380 professionals across food and farming, as well as thousands of regular citizens to compile what we have learned from lockdown. Let us remind ourselves that these changes do not have to be ideals or wishful thinking, because we actually made so many of them reality over the past 12+ months. If your world is opening up and getting more normal, keep the good habits with you and see how creating that positivity ripples out into the world, or even comes back to you. It’s been a brutal year, but we can move forward with the silver linings.

Here are the commission’s findings:

  • The poll finds a majority (85%) want to see some of the personal or social changes they have experienced continue afterwards, whilst just 9% want everything to go back to how it was before the pandemic.

Most people want significant changes to our relationship with food, family and the environment:

  • Social bonds are stronger, with 40% feeling a stronger sense of local community and 39% more in touch with friends and family
  • 42% say the outbreak has changed how they value food as an essential, and one in ten have shared something like food or shopping with a neighbour for the first time
  • More than 19 million of us (38%) say they are cooking more from scratch and 17 million are throwing away less food (33%). 6% (and 9% of Londoners), 3 million people have tried a veg box scheme or ordered food from a local farm for the very first time
  • 51% say they have noticed cleaner air, and 27% more wildlife since the outbreak began
  • Although 9% feel fitter and 27% are getting more exercise, more people (36%) say they are getting less exercise than before.
  • 73% of respondents believe everyone needs easier access to nature.

In the food and farming profession:

  • 80% of respondents wanted most things to be different in the recovery. None wanted everything to go back to how it was before.
  • 90% support shorter, local food supply chains, more diverse food UK production and better rural services, especially broadband and connectivity.
  • 70% of respondents say that the changes they want are possible by working together. This is despite most (59%) expecting recession and business failures to have a bigger long-term impact than recent changes in be haviour and values, such as cooking more from scratch or attitudes to nature.
  • 85% want better pay and conditions for land-based work.
  • 70% want more power and resources devolved to local governments and communities.

Lockdown has shown that the UK’s food system has the capacity for rapid and transformative change. This survey captures this major shift and a huge energy to do things differently.  The findings find some pride in how food businesses and farmers adapted to a shock that few businesses had planned for. Yet it also reveals that industry, public servants and community groups are eager to reset Britain’s relationship with our food, farming and countryside. The survey shows a widespread desire for more collaboration and diversity, particularly through investment in shorter supply chains, as crucial to sustainable economic recovery.

Sue Pritchard, Chief Executive of the FFCC, comments on the findings with these probing questions about our food supply:  “Local supply networks and community groups are making what could be lasting changes with scant infrastructure and resources. What role could they play in the recovery phase and longer term in ensuring rural economies thrive?” How do we secure more investment for ecological farming systems, producing healthy food while enhancing the environment, and strengthening communities?”

Explore the findings and full data sets at the links below:

https://ffcc.co.uk/library/learning-from-lockdown

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1d60r6cdZ8YXDjyAeVK_rLb82bg2r8yT2/view