Changes in the eating habits of young people, monitored during the blockade in England, show both increases in snacks and families eating together.
Researchers found that 60% of young people thought that the times of most shared family meals were positive for health and well-being.
The young people in the study said they wanted to continue eating together.
The research, conducted by Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity and the Bite Back 2030, has studied over 1,000 of 14-19 years.
The youth co-president of Bite Back 2030 is Christina Adane, the 16-year-old Londoner who organized the petition for free school meals during the summer holidays, supported by footballer Marcus Rashford.
“I don’t want us to be victims of endless fast food advertisements and celebrities who claim things that everyone knows are harmful to us,” said Adane.
“I want to be part of a world where our health is the priority of the food industry.”
The study of food blocking has found mixed trends for more unhealthy snacks, such as the “grazing” of chips and chocolate, but also more shared meals as families spent more time at home together.
He also found a growing social divide in healthy and unhealthy eating.
The report describes snacks as the “biggest negative consequence” of eating habits during the pandemic, with a 40% increase in snacks.
Young people from poorer families were “more likely to snack, less likely to eat fresh fruit and vegetables” than their wealthier counterparts.
“Some days I don’t eat much because I’m not hungry, but others eat more snacks on things like chocolate, which I hadn’t done before,” a 16-year-old girl told researchers.
But there was also a trend for more home-cooked food and families eating together in a way that was usually not possible.
“The food during this time allowed me to reconnect with my family members, we cooked together and enjoyed meals together. I would like to continue doing it,” said a 19-year-old girl in the study.
“I think I want to continue eating with my family, make an effort, since we normally don’t, and it’s nice to sit and eat together,” an eighteen-year-old said to the researchers.
This increase in shared meals during the blocking period was greater among the wealthier families, although there was also an increase among the disadvantaged families.
And most young people saw this as healthier and more sociable.
Sarah Hickey, the director of the childhood obesity program at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, said it showed that the social divide in nutrition gets worse during the blockade.
“Even before the pandemic, families’ food options were heavily shaped by where they lived and their socio-economic background,” he said.
“This research shows that the disparity in disparity in access to nutritious foods has been further widened by the Covid-19 blockade.”