It is becoming clear that even once we overcome the health crisis posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, times are going to be tough for years to come, with unemployment in the UK set to double this year. As it stands, 3 million people in the UK are already unable to afford to feed themselves properly, and the issue of food insecurity is only going to get worse as we come out of the other side of this crisis.
This is one of three key problems that have been highlighted by the National Food Service, a project that is aiming to combat food insecurity, along with social isolation and food waste. The NFS initiative promotes social eating spaces in cities and towns across the UK, providing free access to communal meals for those who need it most, whilst promoting sustainability.
Personally, since the Covid-19 pandemic confined us all to our homes, one of the things that I have missed most has been the chance to go to restaurants and cafés to eat out with my friends. On the surface of it, this may seem like a selfish observation, but I believe that meeting at the dinner table to share food is a fundamental part of how we live. This is reflected in research from the University of Oxford, which found that regularly eating meals alone is the single biggest factor contributing to unhappiness besides existing mental illness.
While I am lucky enough to be at home with my family at this time, many people up and down the country are currently on their own, deprived of this vital social routine. Once the pandemic is finally overcome, we must reflect on the aspects of life which have shown themselves to be most important when we have had them taken away. The opportunity to eat healthily, socially and sustainably is not a privilege that should be reserved for those who can afford it, and when social distancing is drawn to a close, we should aim not for a return to normal, but instead seize this opportunity to establish a new way of thinking about food.
The argument for the universal provision of basic needs, free at the point of use, has arguably never been stronger. But as the country fights its greatest health crisis in a century, it also has an estimated three million people going hungry during the lockdown. The coronavirus pandemic has shown why the National Health Service is of such immense importance. What if there could be a National Food Service too?