Monthly Archives: October 2015

Conceptual Art Film Communicates Link Between Agriculture and Food

World Food Day 2015 was celebrated on the 16th of October (see our post here). As part of the celebrations for this, Agricultural Innovation in Brabant commissioned the production of a short film about the relationships between agriculture and food.

The film takes a conceptual art approach to communicating relationships which are not always seen. This highlights how arts and media can be effective methods for communicating pertinent food-related issues to those outside of academia.

If you are interested in using arts, media, and creative processes as a means for broadening engagement around food-related issues, please get in touch with us (food.network@sussex.ac.uk) as we are currently preparing a number of projects which may be of interest to you.

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Searching for the Sovereign in Food: From Demeter, to Monsanto, to Food Sovereignty

This blog by BSUFN member Rachael Taylor was originally shared on her personal blog: rachaelctaylor.wordpress.com

From the Earth Up

Food is the foundation of life. In terms of human life, food sits alongside water, air, and shelter from extreme weather conditions as essential for maintaining life. As an essential component of every living thing, it is not surprising that food has been worship and celebrated throughout the millennia.

A sovereign is someone, or a group of people, who have supreme authority over others. A sovereign is sometimes a monarch, sometimes worshiped, often respected. Often a sovereign is seen to be independent of others in their society. A sovereign has authority and sometimes has power and overall control.

As the food sovereignty movement continues to grow and receive increasing profile among public media, this post looks at different forms of sovereign which have been associated with food.

Demeter and Ceres

Demeter is the Greek Goddess of agriculture, fertility and harvests. She was considered to oversee the fertility of grain and…

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Celebrate Your Food on World Food Day

Today, the 16th of October, is World Food Day 2015. We’re taking this opportunity to reflect on the food we eat – our daily meals, what we take for granted, and those sneaky treats. The global food system is vast and is the biggest employer in the world, so a lot of time, energy, and care has gone into feeding you.

To mark World Food Day 2015, we’re asking everyone to pay attention to where your food has come from and reflect on the amount of work and resources that have gone into providing that food. Food is essential to maintain life so many of us take it for granted that we will have three meals per day, but for others, access to food is not so reliable.

Here in East Sussex a lot of the ingredients in the food we eat have been imported from other countries around the world and this is typical of Western diets. There are many stages required to provide you with your daily meals, snacks and treats. From land preparation and cultivation, to harvesting and processing, to trading and marketing, to distribution and sale, to preparation and cooking, and many more processes or actors according to the type of food produce.

There are many people both locally and worldwide who skip parts of this food production system by either growing their own food or buying directly from the grower. Farmers markets are a regular feature of many UK towns and many farms have shops on-site to sell produce. There is an increasing demand for local produce throughout the Global North which is being stimulated by the demand for organic produce and the growing profile of the food sovereignty movement and environmental sustainability concerns.

Globally, there are around 500 million small-holder farmers and they provide up to 70% of the global food supply. In some areas of the world the majority of these small-holders are subsistence farming, growing food to feed their own family rather than sell. For example, in Sub-Saharan Africa up to 70% of small-holders are subsistence farmers. Small-holders are notoriously vulnerable to environmental, climatic, economic, and social shocks and stresses, making their food production often uncertain.

Meanwhile, in the Global North socio-economic disparities are growing and more people are becoming food insecure. In the UK this has been notable through the increase of people living in food poverty and rapidly growing demand for food banks. Although many think that food poverty is caused by a lack of money to buy food, there are multiple complex factors which interact including access to transport, physical and mental health, age, ‘food deserts’ and employment/unemployment. To complicate this further, the cheapest and most easily accessible food for those living in food poverty is often less nutritious and does not provide a healthy diet.

So today while you sit down to that coffee which was grown in Latin America or tea from Southern Asia, think about what you are eating, where it has come from, and how that fits into a food system which covers the whole world. To mark World Food Day 2015, celebrate the food you have.

What is Food Research?

On Wednesday Ruth Segal and Rachael Taylor gave the weekly SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit, University of Sussex) Seminar, introducing BSUFN and the innovative way we work to foster community and academic collaborations.

In line with the collaborative and participatory nature of BSUFN, the seminar began by asking attendees to tell us what they think ‘food research’ is and what topics it covers.

This is some of the topics the seminar-attendees listed:

  • Food allergies, health and nutrition
  • Global and local value chains
  • Social policies e.g. community gardens
  • Sustainability
  • Food security
  • Interdisciplinarity
  • Food as a way to tackle other issues e.g. health, poverty
  • Concentration of ownership; social enterprise and different organisational forms
  • Spatial and social environments – including obesogenic dynamics
  • Waste management
  • Power
  • Land, water and energy – nexus issues
  • Meanings attributed to foods, advertising and marketing, culture and control

This list identifies many highly diverse topics which are related to food. Despite this diversity, many of the interest areas of current BSUFN members were not raised by seminar attendees. This word cloud presents a selection of key-words taken from BSUFN members’ areas of interest.

Governing Food Policy Workshop Highlights Complexity and Diversity in Food Policy

The Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network (BSUFN) hosted a workshop on Governing Food Policy at the University of Sussex on Friday the 25th of September 2015. The workshop highlighted the complexity of food policy and the interactions between policy and governance of food within different sectors and at different scales. During the workshop it was acknowledged that there isn’t a single ‘food policy’ and this term in fact relates to numerous policies in sectors related to food.

Over 30 participants joined discussion during the workshop and heard about research being undertaken at the University of Sussex on areas related to food policy. This included ‘quick fire’ presentations on sustainability standards, international agricultural research, seed sovereignty, the role of food industry, economics and innovation, health, local food poverty, and the work of the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership.

During the workshop, kindly supported by SPRU (Science Policy Research Unit), eight people presented their work related to food policy. Researchers from SPRU, the Institute of Development Studies, and the Department of Social Work presented research which indicated the diversity of topics and sectors that constitute part of a web of different food policies. Two non-academics also presented their work on local community-based practice in the area of food policy.

The workshop saw the launch of BSUFN’s special interest group (SIG) on Food Policy and Governance. Members of the SIG and the wider Network will take the discussion during the workshop forward through additional activities, collaborations, and investigation into societal engagement with food policy.

A report on the Governing Food Policy Workshop will be made available here soon.