UCL Health


Food in Lockdown and Beyond

This project looks at how is COVID-19 shaping UK families’ relationship with food and the food environment.

1 February 2022


Food environments are the point at which people interact with the wider food system when acquiring and consuming foods. They play a significant role in shaping eating patterns and diet-related health. To successfully move the dial on childhood obesity in the UK, policies and interventions must incorporate a deep understanding of the interaction between food environments and peoples’ day-to-day lives.   

When the COVID-19 lockdown came into force on March 24th 2020, the structure of life in the UK and around the world shifted rapidly. In addition to the anxiety and threat caused by the pandemic itself, there were a plethora of other changes including those related to income, employment, and the physical parameters of people’s lives. There is concern that these changes will result in the amplification of existing dietary inequalities, with growing numbers of parents unable to access good quality and nutritious foods required to support dietary health.


To determine how the UK government’s obesity prevention strategy (and related public health agenda) should adapt to ensure equitable obesity prevention in light of changes related to COVID-19. 


  1. The project is a qualitative longitudinal study that will take place remotely over the period of a year. 
  2. Each research engagement will comprise one or two semi-structured interviews, and a set of flexible creative activities: photography, mapping and oral diaries.  
  3. Analysis will take place after each phase of data collection to produce interim cross-sectional findings. Findings will also be compared and contrasted over the whole study period to provide insight into if and how change is occurring, and what aspects of COVID-19 and the response to it are shaping these changes.


  • 60-80 parents/carers recruited to take part in interviews and creative activities over a week (October to November 2020). 
  • Participants invited to take part interviews and creative activities again, six months (April 2021) and 12 months later (October 2021). 

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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Healthy Weight is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.