How Covid-19 changed what Ireland eats and cooks

Irish people are cooking more at home, and from scratch with fresh ingredients, since the beginning of Covid19, and how we shop for food, cook and eat has changed significantly, according to an international survey led by Queen’s University Belfast and National University of Ireland Galway.

Lead researcher Dr Fiona Lavelle from the Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS) at Queen’s says: “Before the pandemic, we were cooking less and less. Research suggests a decline was under way in home cooking, cooking skills and confidence in a number of countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia. Public health agencies were increasingly promoting cooking from scratch because of its connection to better diets. However, a lack of time restricted people’s ability to use these cooking and food skills.”

The survey in May-June 2020, when many countries were under some form of lockdown, used a sample of 2,360 adults across four regions – the island of Ireland, Great Britain, USA and New Zealand. It shows the pandemic has led to a dramatic shift in food practices, says Lavelle, including freeing up time for food preparation.

Findings for the island of Ireland include a significant reduction in using readymade ingredients for preparing dinner, in favour of more fresh or basic ingredients, in comparison to the other three regions.

Irish people also reduced the frequency of takeaways (Dr Lavelle points out the research was early in the pandemic and possibly due to fewer takeaway options). We’ve also thrown away less food in Ireland since the pandemic compared to the other three regions surveyed, a significant reduction in food waste .

The survey confirms what we know anecdotally, that we are baking more, but interestingly also says that those living in Ireland and Great Britain had significantly greater difficulty finding ingredients compared to the other regions.

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