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Food system in times of COVID-19 - a global civil science project

COVID-Foodsystems - a global civil science project

Welcome to the global citizen science project on food system transformation in times of COVID-19. In the last years many discussions were held about how to transform the current food systems to become more sustainable (1–4). In addition, several discussions were held on which diets are (most) sustainable and whether our current dietary patters influence planetary health (5). Food systems are not static and are transitioning quickly as can be observed during the ongoing pandemic. Trade barriers imposed by the global lockdown affect food availability and prices with major implications on food security and nutrition, particularly in populations that are already vulnerable. In addition, physical activity may be impaired with potential detrimental effects on food choices and nutritional status in certain populations. Anecdotal evidence is shared on various social, governmental and United Nations platforms indicating that during lock downs people eat more if the have the resources and others have less food available as prices rise or they are not available on the market anymore. Physical isolation has implications on the economy. People in many countries lost their jobs. A healthy diet and even sometimes any food become unaffordable. Families with school children who relied on meals provided at school struggle to feed their children properly. Many observations are made that households change their purchasing patterns and food choices, use less out of home facilities and become innovative in eating “together”, share foods with food insecure, establish gardens and e.g. prefer local markets and small food stalls than big superstores. In addition, school meals are brought to the children’s homes (UK) (6), food baskets are offered from balconies (Naples, Italy) (7) or placed at fences (Berlin, Germany) (8), or food aid is distributed by the Government of Uganda (Uganda) (9).

This project aims to identify how the food systems are changing and how this impacts food and nutrition security We are also interested to learn about creative ideas with regards to food sharing, utilizing available resources and innovations which support or hinder sustainable diets.

We have developed a questionnaire which will learn during the process of data collection. The questionnaire is currently available in English, German, Chinese and Spanish available. More translations are in process. If you are interested to translate the questionnaire to allow more people to join the project, please contact the project team via

Your contact information will be stored separately on a secured server at the Justus Liebig University.

The generalized (anonymous) data set will be public good and be made available upon request for non-commercial use only.

More information about the project will be published and updated regularly on the project website.

Looking forward to your participation.

Best regards

Irmgard Jordan, Center for international Development and Environmental Research (ZEU) of Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany

On behalf of the International Project Team

  1. HLPE. Nutrition and Food systems [Internet]. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; 2017 [cited 2017 Nov 24]. (HLPE Reports). Link
  2. Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition. Food systems and diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st century [Internet]. London, UK; 2016 [cited 2017 Nov 30]. Link 
  3. Research Institute (IFPRI) IFP. 2020 Global Food Policy Report: Building Inclusive Food Systems [Internet]. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute; 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 9]. Link
  4. Dubbeling M, Santini G, Renting H, Taguchi M, Lançon L, Zuluaga J, et al. Assessing and Planning Sustainable City Region Food Systems: Insights from Two Latin American Cities. Sustainability. 2017 Aug 17;9(8):1455.
  5. The Planetary Health Diet [Internet]. EAT. 2019 [cited 2020 Apr 9]. Link
  6. Government of the UK. Coronavirus (COVID-19): free school meals guidance [Internet]. GOV.UK. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 12]. Link
  7. The Locals. Coronavirus in Naples: Solidarity food baskets hang from balconies to help those in need [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 12]. Link
  8. Frey T. Besondere Lebensmittelspende: Gabenzäune an vielen Stellen [Internet]. Berliner Woche. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 12]. Link
  9. Tumwine S. Gov’t donates food to the vulnerable [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2020 Apr 12]. Link