Monthly Archives: June 2016

Jamie Oliver, heating up the debate at BSUFN16

By Abigail Wincott, University of Brighton

Jamie OliverThe BSUFN annual symposium yesterday was a lively one and there was a particularly heated discussion during our parallel session on ‘Consumers, Identity and Culture’.

My media colleague Gilly Smith and Jo Ralling from the Jamie Oliver Foundation talked about TV chefs, the changes they might effect in wider food culture and the materials and structures which accompany those changes. For example, Gilly mentioned new restaurants and a foodie tourist trade in Hungary, in part the product of a Hungarian version of Jamie Oliver. Jo talked up the successes of Jamie’s food campaigns in the UK, including the sugar tax and changes to school dinners.
A couple of people in the room took issue with their account, accusing Jamie-style cheftivism of unforgivable smugness and asking why Oliver doesn’t raise the issue of food poverty more often.

Others worried that these chefs’ campaigns tend to shame people, that lifestyle TV formats of problem-expert advice-redemption are inherently judgemental, assume lack of information is the reason for poor eating and don’t recognise the varied and individual circumstances people eat and cook in. The same might be said however for public health campaigning the world over…

To her credit Jo acknowledged she and the team at the JO Foundation were aware of these issues, discussed them and tried to produce programmes which took account of them. At all costs they wanted to avoid shaming she said.

Gilly argued people who make sweeping statements about foodie campaign TV tend not to have watched the half hour programmes, but only read the soundbites in news reports. These leave less room for nuance she argued.

This discussion about lifestyle TV activism is a really important one and we didn’t even scrape the surface on the day. It seems to me the question of form or format is key – Jo and Jamie and  Jo Ralling speaking at the symposiumother media producers are bound by generic conventions like the quest or the transformation. Commissioners need to show they are moving with ‘the next big thing’ and won’t always stick around to follow things up (a point Gilly made). Sound bites may get read more, but long form journalism and longer programmes do have the potential to be both entertaining and a bit judgemental but also so much more.

I think we should all be mindful that food debates of all kinds are mediated, and all are affected by the medium. Academic journal articles, conferences presentations and Q&As are no exception. Our discussion was at least as inadequate on the day as any news report – but it was, I hope, an important opener to a much longer conversation.


Food Insecurity and Food Poverty Rank Top in Poll of Food Issues

Food insecurity and food poverty have come top of a poll on contemporary food issues. Receiving 32% of votes, issues of food insecurity and food poverty emerged as the highest priority among voters.

In the lead up to our annual symposium on the theme of contemporary food issues, we’ve been running a poll to establish which food issues our members and wider audience consider to be the top priority. We’re announcing the results of the poll at the start of the symposium on the 16th of June 2016.

Other priority issues include nutrition and diet, food waste, and food sovereignty.

Results of the online poll of priority areas for contemporary food issues

Results of the online poll of priority areas for contemporary food issues

The full results of the poll are listed below. In the coming months we’re going to feature more posts and articles about the topics which have ranked as high priorities for BSUFN members and we will incorporate these issue into future events and research.

Food insecurity and food poverty 32%
Nutrition and diet 14%
Food sovereignty 12%
Food waste 10%
Sustainable agriculture 7%
Social justice and equality 6%
Public and cultural values 6%
Food-water-energy-environment nexus 4%
Markets, trade and TTIP 1.5%
Biotechnology and innovation 1.5%
Pleasure of food 1.5%
Urban agriculture and community gardens 1.5%
Obesity 1.5%
Increased production 1.5%

New Resource Launched: Creative Methods for Food Research and Dialogue

On the 11th of May 2016, BSUFN co-hosted a workshop on using creative, arts-based methods to improve research, community engagement and dialogue on food issues. The workshop brought a range of academic and non-academic participants together to explore the ways in which arts-based methods can be use to address food-related issues in a variety of contexts and for a range of purposes.

Workshop participants exploring food issues through drama and theatre

Workshop participants exploring food issues through drama and theatre

Held in London, the workshop was co-hosted with the Food Research Collaboration (FRC, City University London) and the People’s Knowledge research group based at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR, Coverty University).

During the day, workshop participants were able to explore the use of three creative methods through hands-on activities in order to experience the methods first-hand and identify the benefits and challenges of using the methods. The three cretive methods explored during the workshop were drama and theatre, art and collage, and photography and film.

A full report on the workshop is available by following this link Creative Methods Workshop Report (opens pdf).

Following the success of the workshop in May 2016 and in response to demand and growing interest in the use of arts-based methods, BSUFN are pleased to be launching a new resource providing information about the use of art in research and community engagement activities, including examples of artworks and relevant projects.

Collage exploring food issues produced by a workshop participant

Collage exploring food issues produced by a workshop participant

There is now an area of our website dedicated to creative and arts-based methods. These pages include examples of artworks produced during the May 2016 workshop in London, as well as descriptions of how these methods were explored during the event. There are extensive bibliographies for creative methods in research and engagement including references for the three key methods BSUFN have focused on to date: art and collage, drama and theatre, and photography and film. The resource also provides links to relevant projects which have used arts-based methods for exploring food issues, and useful external resources.

We will be adding new resources to these webpages frequently. If there are additional resources you think we should include, or something you would like more information on related to the use of creative methods in food research and dialogue, please get in touch via email to or use the comments box below. Any feedback on this resource is appreciated as we continue to develop it and build ongoing discourse around these issues.

If you are involved in a project which uses creative, arts-based methods to explore food issues, or you are interested in developing a project, we would love to hear from you. Please get in touch via email to or use the comments box below.