Digital food sharing and food insecurity in the COVID-19 era
Sharing food surplus via the digital sharing economy is often discussed as a promising strategy to reduce food waste and mitigate food insecurity at the same time. Yet if and how the global pandemic has affected digital food sharing are not yet well understood. Leveraging a comprehensive dataset covering over 1.8 million food exchanges facilitated by a popular peer-to-peer food sharing platform, we find that UK activity levels not only rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, but outperformed projections. A potential explanation for this growth might be the rise of food insecurity during the pandemic. Yet examining the sociodemographic characteristics of platform users, average user activity and food exchanges before and during the pandemic, we find no compelling evidence that the platform's pandemic-era growth results from a large influx of food insecure users. Instead, we poist that the growth in digital food sharing relates to lifestyle changes potentially triggered by the pandemic.
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