Mapping Food Ladders

Getting Straight to it–Before the workshop

  1.  Start by watching the food ladders explainer video.  Click through the slides below the video as you watch.
  2. Read through the section titled General instructions for mapping food ladders and download and read the example. 
  3. Complete the Try it yourself! Activity. Bring your responses to the online workshop for discussion.
Presentation of the food ladders approach (15 minutes)

The matrix in slide 8 forms the basis for how you map activity onto the ladders and acts as a guide for identifying the different levels of activity. To help, I have uploaded it again here.

General instructions for mapping Food Ladders

This method uses typically qualitative data collection techniques to produce both a narrative account of activity (qualitative) as well as quantitative data.  

  1. The first step is to interview the organisations individually or ask them to reflect on what they do with the food. Each use of the food is its own food project.  Examples of food projects include shared meals, cooking activities that involve community members, food parcels, prepared meals that are delivered, a pantry service, children’s activities that include a snack or meal, etc.  
  2. Second, for each individual activity, as many organisations offer more than one food-based activity, I ask them to consider how that activity intersects with the three domains–food, economic, and social and describe that.  For example, a shared meal that is very low cost would intersect with the food domain in terms of providing nutrients and calories for people.  The social aspect is the way in which people meet regularly and can find company and make friends.  The economic aspect is that it helps people to stretch their budgets. 
  3. I then ask them to think about the three levels of resilience as it applies to each of the domains discussed in the second task and provide a description of how the activity intersects with the resilience level:  Coping, Adapting/Capacity building, Transforming
    1. Coping activities are those that fill a need for someone, but what they tend to do is provide someone who does for or does to the person accessing the service. Using the example above, the shared meal is something that is done for someone else.  To nudge this into food capacity building there would need to be some form of learning. Capacity building activities are those that are done with people as both must engage with the activity in an active way.  Learning in this context might be that the meal regularly includes foods that are unfamiliar to those eating the meal, or it might include some specific instruction regarding how to cook the food at home, which might eventually have the outcome of transforming diets at the community scale.  Transforming activities are those that are self-organised  or done by individuals or communities. A shared meals that is planned and created by the community for the community members would be a transforming activity. 
    2. Likewise within the social domain, the shared meal is something that could be capacity building, as people are brought together, but it is up to them to work to make their own friends and start conversations within the group.  If people then go on to develop friendships that extend beyond the meals then this could be considered Transforming activity. 
    3. In the economic domain, giving food to people for free is doing to (coping).  Enabling them to engage with the commercial world through activities that involve some payment exchange is doing with (adapting/capacity building) because it allows people to adapt their budgets in a way that helps them work within a harsh financial context.  To shift this into transforming activities, those in the community might translate the shared meal into a commercial opportunity–for example developing skills that enable them to make a profit from their meals–e.g., start a catering business that serves the local community, or generate enough money to create jobs linked to cooking and serving the meal.
  4. Once these descriptions are written for each activity, the activity is then coded onto a matrix in order to provide a way to quantify across organisations what is happening in a particular locality by ticking the relevant boxes–see the matrix below.
The tick box matrix for identifying what is happening in place. Please note that a single activity may tick more than one box or no boxes within a single domain.

The two files below include (1) a worked example of how the mapping for an organisation would look and (2) a downloadable briefing sheet that provides the information above.

5. Once the activities in an organisation are categorised,this detail can then be used to identify the kinds of services that are available in a locality, for example on a map. The data may also be used to provide a quantitative picture of what is available in a particular area as well as where gaps in services provision exist within that area.

Try it yourself! Activity using case studies

In this activity workshop participants will be mapping the food activity of organisations onto the food ladders framework using a version of the form that I have been using with local authorities, food networks, and charities.  

Background and where to find out about organisations to use in this exercise: 

In 2019-20 I did a piece of consulting work for FareShare UK.  FareShare is a surplus food redistribution organisation.  FareShare collect surplus food from across the commercial supply chain and then facilitate its redistribution to approximately 11,000 community and charity organisations across the UK. You can download the report from that project here.

The work with Fare Share focused on food support and its relationship to addressing loneliness and Isolation. You do not need to read the whole report, although feel free to do so if you would like.  Instead, at the end of the report, in the Appendix, there are 8 case studies.  Each case study is an organisation we visited and interviewed.  Rhubarb Farm is one of these organisations.  It may be useful to look at the case study and see how what they do is mapped onto the food ladders example in the previous learning block.

Instructions for completing this activity:

1. Please select one of the remaining case study organisations from the report.

2. You will find their case study write-up in the appendix of the attached report above called Releasing Social Value from Surplus Food. 

3. Following  the procedure for analysing food activity described , please identify one activity that the organisation does that uses food (it does not have to be using surplus food), and fill in the google mapping form for the activity you are describing (e.g., holiday activity, breakfast club, shared lunch, etc. Once you have submitted your answers, you will receive an email with your responses. Please bring this to the workshop.

***For the actual mapping of what organisations do this form can be created so that more than a single activity can be included for each organisation by copying the blocks starting with titles called activity 1 and renaming copied blocks as activity 2, activity 3 and so forth. To do this, you must do this in advance as the same form is shared via a link to all who wish to fill out the form for their organisation.

Finish the workshop with an online session