Over the past decade, food insecurity has been increasing across the United Kingdom. The 2020/21 Covid-19 global pandemic has further aggravated food insecurity. This article examines how Covid-19 affected food insecurity through, first, a review of existing literature on the UK and, second, through presenting research results from Scotland with a focus on four groups considered to be specifically vulnerable to food insecurity – namely people with a disability, the homeless, young carers, and (destitute) asylum seekers. The article finds that Covid-19 impacted food insecurity in three ways: (1) it led to rising need driven mainly by income reductions and income crises; (2) it created new and intensified food access challenges; and (3) it had a significant impact on the operation of food banks and their important ‘wrap-around’ services (e.g. benefits advice). The article concludes with a discussion of the role of the social sciences in understanding the food insecurity crisis during Covid-19. In summary, the article adds to the developing understanding of the consequences of Covid-19 on food insecurity, the effectiveness of policy measures and the role that social sciences can play in times of crisis.


This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

Cite as

Pautz, H. & Dempsey, D. 2022, 'Covid-19 and the crisis of food insecurity in the UK', Contemporary Social Science. https://doi.org/10.1080/21582041.2022.2044069

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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