Digital Food Sharing and Food Insecurity in the COVID-19 Era
21 Pages Posted: 17 May 2022 Last revised: 26 Nov 2022
Sharing food surplus via the digital sharing economy is 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 between 04/2017 - 01/2021, we find that UK activity levels not only rose during the pandemic, but outperformed projections. Examining the sociodemographic characteristics of platform users, average user activity and the flow of foods before and during the pandemic, we find no compelling evidence to support the view that the platform’s pandemic era growth is due to a large influx of food insecure users. Instead, we suggest that the dramatic growth in digital food sharing relates to increased network density and lifestyle changes potentially triggered by the pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19, Sharing economy, Food Waste, Food insecurity, peer-to-peer, circular economy
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