The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural food security in high income countries: a systematic literature review
Kent, K and Alston, L and Murray, S and Honeychurch, B and Visentin, D, The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural food security in high income countries: a systematic literature review, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19, (6) Article 3235. ISSN 1661-7827 (2022) [Refereed Article]
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, rural-dwelling people in high-income countries were known to have greater challenges accessing healthy food than their urban counterparts. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted food supplies across the world, and public health restrictions have changed the way people shop for food, potentially exacerbating food insecurity. This systematic literature review aimed to synthesize the available evidence on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on aspects of food insecurity in rural populations residing in high-income countries. Five electronic databases were searched, identifying 22 articles that assessed food insecurity prevalence or data on food availability, access, utilization and the stability of the food supply in rural populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ten studies examined the prevalence of food insecurity in rural populations, with the reported prevalence ranging from 15% to 95%. Where rural/urban comparisons were presented, most studies (n = 5; 71%) reported that food insecurity was significantly higher in rural regions. Five studies examined the availability of food and eight studies examined access to food, identifying that rural populations often had lower food availability and access to food during the pandemic. In contrast, two studies identified positive effects such as more gardening and increased online access to food. Rural populations experienced multiple changes to food utilization, such as reduced diet quality and food safety observed in eight studies, but this was not shown to be different from urban populations. Additionally, the food supply in rural regions was perceived to be affected in two studies. The results of this review may be used to inform region-specific mitigation strategies to decrease the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic and future global events on food security. However, the lack of consistency in study outcomes in research on rural populations limits the identification of priority areas for intervention at a global-scale.