I’ve just about finished the final report for the Feeding Affordances project I did with Doncaster Council last year. As a result, Doncaster is setting itself up as a sustainable food city and is already doing fantastic things with its third sector organisations in its communities. I am constantly awed by what people do to support each other.
I’ve uploaded the (nearly) final report from the project onto my academia.edu account if you are interested in reading it. I welcome feedback on the content. I would also really like to know if it gets used and helps to inform action or policy at local levels. For either of these, or if you are struggling to download a copy, leave a message and I will get back to you.
Here is the synopsis of the report:
There is an emerging context of social support withdrawal as a result of funding withdrawal by central government is creating a context within which individuals, households and communities are having to increasingly seek support from third-sector organisations in the UK. This is happening through:
- ⇒ The introduction and eventual rollout of Universal Credit are likely to contribute further to these inequalities, but there also may be opportunities for improving diets.
- ⇒ A squeeze on the abilities of local authorities to support their communities as local authority remits have expanded to include addressing diet-related public health and public health inequalities, which include health inequalities that arise out of food poverty. Local authorities will also become responsible for supporting the way in which individuals and families will have to cope with the transition to Universal Credit. At the same time, as local authority remits are expanding they are facing draconian cuts to their budgets such that there are staff reductions resulting in cuts to the capacity of the LA to deliver programmes.
- ⇒ There has been a rise in community and third-sector organisations who are concerned with helping to reduce health inequalities by helping to reduce food poverty.Given the importance that resilience is playing in helping local authorities to resolve the gaps that austerity is creating, it is clear that more research is needed that examines the dimensions of resilience (adapting, coping, transforming). Specifically with regard to how:
Over the last year I’ve been conducting research with Doncaster Public Health to help them understand how to move beyond interventions that target people and try to nudge them into changing their behaviour. My work has focused on trying to understand how context shapes what people can and cannot do. This post highlights some of the findings from the research and makes some suggestions about how councils can support communities to be more resilient food landscapes. Continue reading
This blog post draws from a forthcoming chapter I have written for The Routledge Handbook of Landscape and Food that is edited by Josh Zeunert and Tim Waterman. The book will be published early in 2018. I am drawing on a section that focuses on the food desert concept in order to show how the standard interventions aiming to address food deserts does little to reconfigure the institutional forces that give rise to unjust foodscapes in the first instance. The excerpt closes by identifying some of the ways that food justice activists are tyring to address the problems. Continue reading
Researchers for WRAP estimate that the UK currently produces 1.9 million tonnes of waste each year from the grocery supply chain. Of this, about 56% (1.1. million tonnes) can be considered avoidable food waste. mostly because it is surpus and not yet waste. Wrap argues that after changing processes to reduce the amount of food becoming surplus, redistribution of surplus food to people is the most desirable option for food waste prevention. They estimate that about 18% is currently redistributed, with food from the retail sector accounting for about five percent of the total volume of redistributed food and the remainder coming from manufacturing. The WRAP report also considers that at least half of all the surplus could be considered ‘readily redistributable’, while the rest is more challenging because of its shorter life or need for repackaging. The aim is to increase the volume of surplus food that is redistributed by about four times the current amount (from 47,000 tonnes to 185,000 tonnes); to an equivalent of approximately 360 million meals per year by 2025. Achieving this goal will involve a doubling of the amount of food that is redistributed from retail to consumers. One of the recommendations of the report is the development of improved guidance and partnership tools that would facilitate food redistribution. Continue reading
Your oven is probably the most energy inefficient appliances in your house. Running an oven 20 minutes uses about the same amount of energy as running a slow cooker for 8 hours. If you think about this in cost terms, one hour of cooking in an oven is three times more expensive compared to 8 hours of cooking in a slow cooker (see this article in the Telegraph for an explanation). This makes a slow cooker not only a more energy efficient way to cook dinner but it also makes is a great appliance if you are trying to save money. If you break it down, the cost of cooking in an oven for an hour is about £0.30 compared to just over £0.10 in the slow cooker. Maybe the difference doesn’t seem like much. For many, it won’t matter, but for some, it is a big deal.
I do some work with a couple of organisations who distribute emergency food to those who are facing hardship. At a recent meeting, we were discussing the needs of some of these people who are managing on very, very tight budgets. The oven is the last appliance that they want to use when cooking food as people who are struggling to find money for food. In my discussions with emergency food providers in two locations, I was told that there are those coming to the food banks who are struggling on both the food and household fuel fronts.
Some of those who are going to the food bank are also those who get electrical supply via a pre-payment meter (yes, in the UK this is possible). The way these work is that you purchase a card and then insert it into the meter. When you run out of money on the pre-payment card, your electricity turns off. While the cost per unit of electricity used tends to be more expensive than for a service that is continuous and for which you get a bill every month or so, it does allow those on the pre-payment system to limit their electricity use before the bill gets out of hand. Importantly not all household energy use is viewed as equally important, such that there is a suggestion that people will choose to forgo heat in favour of other household expenditures on things such as food, which has given rise to what is known as the heat or eat dilemma (though there is little systematic research that fully explores this situation or the extent to which the heat or eat strategy is being used). It is also unclear just how many in the UK are affected by the lack of fuel and food, but there must certainly be a sufficient number as several food banks are now also providing fuel certificates that enable those on pre-pay meters to keep them going.
While we need to put pressure on our government to consider how our current social support system is designed such that those who are the poorest are increasingly finding themselves unable to meet their basic needs (and this includes those who are in work poor), there is some small support we as citizens can offer. Slow cookers are not just inexpensive to run, but they are also inexpensive to buy. As part of your holiday giving this year why not donate a slow cooker to a charity that supports those who are struggling to eat.