On Friday, 8 May 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK, but that the overall collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party has given the Conservative government a mandate in UK politics. While I, at an individual level, am likely to see some benefits from the strong neoliberalism that underpins this government’s ideology, I am concerned by the implications of this for the country more generally and particularly the nation’s poor. Indeed, I see a further deepening of the division between those who have and those who have not. As I will elaborate, this will mean the continued exponential growth in the numbers of people requiring emergency food assistance and increased numbers of children and elderly with inadequate food supply, which will also translate into higher rates of obesity, diet rated illness and malnutrition. These trends as they are situated within the current climate of neoliberal austerity will also mean that we, if we are to continue as a nation with social values (as opposed to only economic values) must find ways of filling the gap, not just for families but also for our communities. Continue reading
The University of Sheffield recently engaged a new form of teaching for level 1 students. Known broadly as Achieve More, all first year students (nearly 2000) in the Faculty of Social Science were given a programme of talks on key issues and undertake some investigative challenges that would be completed in within the week. There are 8 groups of students (with 7 in each group), who are working on projects with me concerning the food landscape of Sheffield. I also gave one of the talks. The video of it is available here.
- The graph of population and food supply is from this link: www.s-cool.co.uk
- The Met Office supplied the image of temperature rise
- Data for the Environmental Cost Estimates are via DEFRA
- Jevon’s Paradox slide was presented by Prof. Tim Benton at the Environment Hearing of the Food and Poverty Commission being undertaken by the Fabian Society and which was hosted here at Sheffield.
- The ven diagram is one produced by Tim Allen of Sheffield on a Plate for a talk to level 1 students.
I am increasingly interested in the ways in which various forms of public engagement can help facilitate change in our food systems. Certainly these forms of interaction throw up surprises both in terms of critical topical insights, but also in the ways they recalibrate what I understand as being accepted knowledge.
My most recent effort at engagement is to host a hearing for the Fabian Society for a commission on Food and Poverty, which will take place on 27 January 2015. The aim of the commission is to influence government action on the topic of food poverty in the UK. My aim, is linked, but also to continue to create critical buzz and to further momentum around the work that is being done both in research but also the public sphere on the important topic of food poverty and to strengthen and extend the connectivities within the network of interested parties within the region.
Within Sheffield and indeed the larger Yorkshire region, there is a critical mass of parties interested and working toward a better food system. This includes public sector actors, voluntary organisations, researchers and private citizens. What has become clear to me over the last year is the lack of connectivity within this network of actors. People know each other as little network clusters, but linking into and being able to visualise the whole of that network is still very difficult to realise. I’m not sure what the answer is, but I do know that providing repeated opportunities for people within this network to interact is not a waste of time, as I see with each event new connections being made between those within the group, which in turn produces new possibilities for innovative collaboration.
It is also clear to me that at some point the critical action occurring at the local scale, must inform and interact politics and action at the national and international scales. While the specificities and sometimes the agendas will vary from place to place, there is a need for the development of case studies that demonstrate and elaborate good practice. These case studies then need to be communicated widely in order for the innovations inherent within each case to diffuse to other networks and places.
If you would like to attend the hearing, it is on 27/1/2015. Tickets are available here.
There will also be further blog posts and a storify from the event. I will post the links as they become available. We will be using the following hashtags for the event if you want to follow on Twitter. #foodandpoverty #FeedingBritain
UPDATE: Please see the storify here, which includes videos of the main speakers.
As part of the Festival of the Mind activities hosted by the University of Sheffield I participated in a session called Tales from the Ivory Tower. The aim was to talk about research in a story telling format. Here is the video of my storytelling, which focuses on social inequality and eating sparrow in Hong Kong.