Blog post

Coronavirus: panic buying and stockpiling affects us all through food security

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, there is not only an impact on the hospitality industry, but also an impact on our own home kitchens. Here, Ewen Crilley, Head of Discipline for Culinary Arts and Food Development at the University of Derby, reviews the changes in our habits and behaviours towards food and eating during lockdown.

By Ewen Crilley - 1 April 2020

Global Issues

The weeks leading up to the lockdown saw many consumers panic buying and stockpiling essential ingredients in preparation for self-isolation. They are now faced with the question of what to cook with a cupboard full of tins and pasta. But those who didn't fill their cupboards are now concerned about shopping and whether there will be anything on the shelves. What will I get once I am there? What do I buy now? Where are my normal buys? What are the alternatives? What keeps well long term? How do I use these ingredients?

It is certainly difficult times, namely for our own kitchen larder and our supply chain, and it's at these times when people start looking for advice and support to deal with current global food issues. The answer is first and foremost, don't panic... there are answers.

Taking stock of the current situation and issues in our supply chain offers us, as a nation, the opportunity to look into further issues such as climate change, food waste, food provence and food security for a sustainable future.

"Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life" (World Food Summit, 1996). An interesting concept that has been at the heart of discussion globally for some time. As globalisation developed, so did our demand for more produce at all times of the year. Have you ever wondered how many miles it takes to get our food to our supermarket shelves?

Food availability

Food availability is one of the four components of food security along with access, stability and utilisation. Throughout recent weeks, we have seen a dramatic change in availability of food within the supermarkets due to the unprecedented growth in sales within supermarkets. The answer to this problem is simple. Stop panic buying. At this time there is enough for everyone, however, change in behaviour has to take effect to change the disruption in the supply chain. Now, more than ever, we need to follow the advice and buy only what you need and think about shopping local.

Local community

As the supermarkets are being emptied and certain stock lines are being restricted to limited buying restrictions, now is the time to support your local producers and suppliers. The farmers, butchers, bakers, dairies, and fruit and vegetables suppliers are coming together to supply your local community.

We have some amazing produce across the country to offer and here, with the Peak District on our doorstep, for example, we are no strangers to some of the best local products and ingredients readily available to all. We have seen the high street fade away, along with local convenience stores that offer fresh local produce, through globalisation and the demand to have fresh produce from across the globe. This has a direct impact on the planet through CO2 emissions, deforestation and food waste.

There are a number of local communities across Derbyshire coming together and looking to local businesses who can supply and deliver our everyday needs. We are even seeing the local hospitality businesses, all whom have recently had to shut their doors, turning to local delivery for food and drink in the form of small takeaway menus, drink packages and now meat packages and vegetable boxes, all of which can be ordered via phone or online. Amazing produce available on your doorstep delivered to your doorstep such as:

Changing habits and behaviours

Through changing habits and behaviours, you can have better produce and save money. Think about planning meals for the week, prep in batches and do more home cooking. Stop buying for buying sake. The majority of people spend too much money on food. Statistics on food waste from WRAP (2020) estimated annual food waste within UK households, hospitality and food service (HaFS) in 2018 at around 9.5 million tonnes, 70% of which was intended to be consumed by people. This had a value of over £19 billion a year and household waste around £13.5 billion per year. The average UK household wastes 165kg of food per year, roughly £500 per annum and approximately eight meals per week. This has been demonstrated this week in the press and on social media highlighting the waste left in bins from panic buying over that last two weeks; all of this at a time when there are people struggling to get supplies.

A focus on changing behaviours is needed. This change can support re-using and not wasting. However, through this time it's encouraging to see that basic household items such as flour, eggs and sugar were selling out first, suggesting that the nation has gone back to baking bread and cakes... or at least I hope so!

Here are some tips to help:

Use this time to research a new recipe that features that tin of black beans you have had in the cupboard for a while! If you have had a recipe for a new cuisine you were always wanting to try, now is the time to look through what you have and adapt and use it. Next time you need to go shopping, think waste, think quality, think food miles, think local.

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About the author

Ewen Crilley

Ewen Crilley
Senior Lecturer in Hospitality and Tourism

Ewen is the Programme Leader for our BA (Hons) International Hospitality Management programme. His role focuses on programme management, teaching and learning and developing student experience to ensure that our programme offers the skills, knowledge and attributes to allow our students to be successful in the industry.

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