COVID-19 As an Opportunity for a Healthy-Sustainable Food Transition. An Analysis of Dietary Transformations during the First Italian Lockdown
The COVID-19 emergency and the consequent social distancing requirements have caused major disruptions in daily food-related practices at the household level. In this paper, we evaluate the transformations that occurred in the daily nutritional choices and behaviors of a convenience sample (n = 2288) of Italian residents during the first nation-wide lockdown (March–May 2020) to assess the impact on the health and socio-environmental sustainability of their diets. Results portray a scenario of
... de-spread change, especially in relation to the quantity of daily food consumed, the composition of diets and the time and commitment devoted to home-cooking, with young individuals emerging as the most impacted generational cohort. Through the construction of an indicator for healthy–sustainable transition (HST index), we demonstrate that such changes unfold on a gradient, revealing that while for many respondents lockdown nutrition implied overeating and weight gain, a substantial segment of the population conversely improved the healthiness and sustainability of their daily nutritional patterns. In this sense, improvements are associated with young age, socio-economic status, frequency and enjoyment of cooking-from-scratch and, more generally, an attentive attitude towards the quality, provenance and materiality of food that, in turn, the COVID-19 crisis appears to have re-kindled. We conclude by highlighting five areas of institutional intervention (i.e., young people, time, tools, food supply at work, and local food chains) on which to focus in order to ensure the current crisis does not represent a missed opportunity for creating the necessary conditions for sustainable food production and consumption to take hold as the 'new' normal in the post-pandemic era.