Food Ladders: A multi-scaled approach to everyday food security and community resilience

Everyday food insecurity is more than just a lack of access to food based on income.  Poverty creates a hole that has emotional and nutritional effects, as well as implications for community cohesion. Food insecurity as it intersects with poverty also materialises in places to produce landscapes where food availability and the social connections it enables are scarce (for an open access paper see Blake 2019).  Poor foodscapes contribute to vulnerabilities to the shocks associated with limited food choices, which in turn reduces the resilience of places and people by producing want, poor health, social isolation, and fear and distrust of one’s neighbours.  The Food Ladders approach seeks to overcome these place-based aspects of vulnerability by developing positive engagements through food and ultimately aims to help communities become the places where people want to live, raise their children, and grow old.  Continue reading

New Conversation Article: Rising income inequalities are linked to unhealthy diets and loneliness.

Rising income inequalities are linked to unhealthy diets and loneliness

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PongMoji/Shutterstock.com

Megan Blake, University of Sheffield

One in every five people in the UK today are living in poverty – that is, living with a household income below 60% of the median national income when housing costs are considered. And according to recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, two thirds of children in poverty live in a working family. These rates are expected to increase sharply by 2021-22, assuming there is no change in government policy. Continue reading

Feeding Affordances and Decent Helpings. (Nearly) Final Report

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:
  • ⇒  Activities within these three areas can contributing to different scales of resilience (individual, household, community, and local authority area);
  • ⇒  How collectively activities within an area contribute to a landscape of resilience enabling support.A more collaborative approach may enable local authorities to better work with these third-sector organisations to best realise the possibilities that partnership could provide. Recommendations for more collaborative working are detailed in this report and are based on community-based research, participant observation, consultation with community organisations and local authorities, and the outcomes of a co-production workshop.

    This research was funded by ESRC IAA award number R/145185

Food Deserts and Unjust Foodscapes

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.  The full chapter is available here to download.  Continue reading