For what we know, 2020 is proving to be a very unusual year in many ways. We are still amidst a pandemic, with more than six months living in some kind of parallel reality in which everyone wears masks, and aren't supposed to hug friends, or even give handshakes. But it has been stranger, with people stockpiling toilet papers, hand sanitizers, and food.
As we are kinda living in the future (but not The Jetsons' future), we were blessed with the internet, food apps, and brave delivery workers bringing meals and conveniences to our doorsteps. And not being able to be out, and mostly concerned about health issues, we all got anxious in some way. And one major outcome of anxiety is eating, and most of them are comforting foods.
And for many people, myself included, fast food can be very comforting in times like these. I know, it's bad and wrong, but chemically it's all explained. When stressed our brain asks for sugar and fat, and that's something fast foods like hamburgers and pizzas have in high amounts. Also, with restaurants closed and only two sources of food possible, supermarket or delivery, our urgent shopping lacks rationality.
All around the world, the "pandemic diet" has been very similar in that sense, within a first moment the stockpiling of canned goods and foods that preserve well not just in shelves, but also in the fridge. Now, months ahead of the first wave of the pandemic, restaurants started again their operations with takeout and delivery, and security measures to prevent contamination. But people are still avoiding crowds, and at-home meals are most frequent.
In Finland, it's no different. Two trends have been noticed: one, the increase of homemade meals using local ingredients. According to Statista survey results from May 2020, 40 percent of the respondents said that they increasingly preferred food products made in Finland, while around one third stated that locally produced food increased in importance. Moreover, Finnish consumers were looking for healthy, ecological, and affordable eating options during the pandemic.
And two, the increase of fast-food consumption because of simple access. One very known pizza chain in Finland had their online orders skyrocketed by 152 percent during the pandemic, which is an example of how the easy and instant process of ordering is helping these numbers to grow. Specialists say the growth in fast-food consumption was expected to happen, but Covid-19 just accelerated the process.
Industrial food producers are seeing these changes and following the needs of the masses. In supermarkets, it's easy to identify packages labeling "organic" or "made in Finland", and companies are prioritizing these products due to demand. After all, eating consciously can be also a way to prepare your immune system to fight infections and illnesses.
In a hard time to make wise decisions, sometimes the easy way out is not the best, just the most comforting. And we all know comfort is needed, but also to respect our bodies and health. Now, as ourselves, and the global economy, re-starts and re-shifts, the focus lies on staple ingredients. As food prices rise, especially fruits and vegetables, beef and pork meat, there's the need to return to the basics - grains, legumes, processed and canned goods.
We still don't know what will be the outcome of the pandemic. Vaccines are being tested, and people around the world are struggling with the increase in unemployment, debt, and general incertitude. In Finland, being a country known for clean, fresh, and natural products, it might be easier to say no to junk food, but not impossible. Maybe we just need to find a balance, find joy and comfort, well-being and satisfaction, while waiting for the storm to dissipate.
Photo: Anna Shvets from Pexels