Food for thought - redesigning our relationship with what we eat

A mix of fresh vegetables

Lancaster researchers are working with businesses, communities and local institutions on a project which seeks to rethink the future of food.

From the feel-good factor of growing your own to the challenges of food-poverty, Lancaster University has been supporting North Lancashire’s sustainable food network, FoodFutures in its vision for fair, healthy and sustainable food system in the local area. The network brings together businesses and local institutions, researchers and communities to share knowledge and ideas about how to design a more sustainable and fairer food system.

As part of this Lancaster University researchers Dr Rachel Marshall and Dr Rebecca Whittle have drawn on ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Impact Acceleration Award funding to support two events led by FoodFutures that explore the importance of food to all in society - from producers to communities.

Dr Marshall said: “The food system we have now has focussed on treating food as a commodity, rather than a necessity and a right for all. This has led to huge inequalities in who has access to nutritious food, to the paradox of piles of food waste whilst people go hungry, and to the depletion of our soils and pollution of water in the pursuit of producing what the global markets and food manufacturers’ demand.”

Dr Whittle added: “This is not an just an issue for the farmers to deal with or our governments to control, we all need to get involved in the conversations about what we eat, how it’s produced and how we might like to see things change. These local events offer a chance to explore the role of food in our lives and to spark conversations around how we might redesign our food system as a society.”

The events are open to the public.

Lancaster District Health Festival – 17 to 20 September:

The Lancaster District Health Festival (17-20th September) returns in an online format this year offering four days of podcasts, online events and a small number of socially distanced in-person events. The festival is a collaboration between the Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust and FoodFutures and is a chance for everyone across the district to learn more about how food, exercise, green space, mental wellbeing and much more can impact your health.

These events are open to all and the full programme can be found on the festival website

Lancaster University members will be taking part in the festival and offering insights from their work and research including

·      Can these bones live?': a podcast discussion with Professor Dame Sue Black

·      Dr Gabriela Toledo-Ortiz (LEC) will be joining the UK Seed Sovereignty network and Lancaster Seed Library to talk about the health and social benefits of diversity in our seeds and food

·      Glyn Jones of the Health Innovation Campus is leading a virtual tour of their building and facilities and talking about their ambition for contributing to the region’s health and wellbeing

·      Dr Kirsti Ashworth (LEC) will be launching a map survey of the district in which residents will be able to contribute to building a picture of how people access green space locally, how it makes them feel and the barriers to accessing certain areas. This is be an ongoing project that will be promoted at, and beyond, the health festival.

Northern Real Farming Conference - 28th September to 10th October:

·      Both climate change impacts and the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted the critical need to transform farming systems in the North of England to provide resilient and regenerative landscapes for food production for our local communities. FoodFutures and Lancaster University researchers are working in partnership with the famous Oxford Real Farming Conference organisation to create the inaugural Northern Real Farming Conference (NRFC). Held online this year because of the pandemic, the conference will act as a platform for dialogue between farmers, conservation teams, researchers and policy makers using a whole range of different approaches from webinars, Q&A sessions, virtual farm tours, workshops and more.

The event welcomes food producers, businesses, community groups and researchers with interest in meeting global food system challenges in innovative and environmentally regenerative ways.

The full programme and tickets are available at:

Lancaster University researchers are collaborating with partners in the local farming community to run sessions including:

o  Dr Rachel Marshall: A workshop to capture the wide range of views around upland perspectives and how we can manage the uplands for both food production and public good including clean water, climate mitigation and biodiversity in collaboration with The Farmer Network and AHDB

o  Dr Ali Birkett: “What could your dung beetles be doing for you?” sharing Lancaster Environment Centre and farmer-led research and experiences on the high-profile story of the importance of and threats suffered by the dung beetle community of UK livestock farms.

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