Author Archives: Rachael Taylor

New Paper on Using the Arts for Food Research and Dialogue

Everyone can speak the language of food because we must all eat. Equally, everyone can engage in creative activities regardless of their perceived ability.

Collage as a creative method to explore food issues. Photo from BSUFN-FRC workshop held in London in May 2016.

Last year BSUFN teamed up with the Food Research Collaboration (City University London) and the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (Coventry University) to host a workshop on using arts-based methods for research and dialogue around food issues. The use of creative methods facilitates engagement and can initiaite dialogue with a range of groups, from community groups, to private sector elites, to researchers and academics.

 

Today, the Food Research Collaboration has published a new briefing paper on ‘Using the Arts for Food Research and Dialogue’. This paper came out of the success of the workshop held in London in May 2016. The paper was co-authored by members of BSUFN along with other academics and civil society groups. You can read the briefing paper here.

Drama as a creative method to explore food issues. Photo from BSUFN-FRC workshop in London in May 2016.

The paper particularly examines creative arts-based methods through a participatory and community-centred approach to research and community engagement.  The briefing paper explores the use of photography, drama, and collage, providing details of the approach, method, and other considerations, as well as case studies of how the methods have been used for engagement on food issues. It is hoped that this briefing paper will be of interest to researchers and civil society groups who are working on food-related issues.

A range of resources and information about the different methods, including additional examples from case studies and the outputs from the BSUFN-FRC workshop held in 2016 are available here.

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Can we love food and not worry about sugar?

“Sugar, sugar, sugar- who doesn’t love it right? It is everywhere and in everything and a long time ago, we thought that was a good thing, or at least not that bad of a thing…” writes Julie Montagu (2015).

 

Obesity is rising; experts are telling us to drastically reduce sugar consumption, while advertisers are telling us otherwise. Slow Food Sussex have convened the panel to examine the evidence, navigate the conflicting advice and help to bring about a very necessary change. Craig Sams, main speaker and co-founder of Green & Blacks chocolate says, “It’s about everything in moderation.’. “You get more pleasure out of the things that you don’t overdo.”

Conversations on Sugar

28th April 2017 – 18:30

One Church, Gloucester Place, Brighton , BN1 4AA

 

The conversation will cover various aspects of this issue. Why do we crave sugar? How does the food industry slip more sugar in to our food? What external factors drive our compulsion to eat sugar? Can the gut be re-trained to stop cravings? How can parents help their children to consume less? Can taxes and regulations have any impact?

 

Speakers include:

  • Craig Sams, Co-founder of Green and Black’s chocolate,
  • Jo Rallings, Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, and
  • Dan Parker, Sugar Smart Brighton.

The evening will begin with free canapes and drinks will also be available for purchase.

 

Tickets cost £6 and can be purchased here.

 

Conversations on Sugar is hosted by Slow Food Sussex in collaboration with BSUFN.

Register Now for Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future Symposium #BSUFN17

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future: BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017
Monday 6th of February 2017
9:00 – 17:20
Auditorium, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD
You can now register to attend the BSUFN Annual Symposium on the 6th of February 2017. Tickets cost £11.21. Buy tickets to attend here.
Lunch and refreshments will be provided.
During the symposium we will be using the hashtag #BSUFN17 so please join the conversation if you are on Twitter.

There has been much talk of the ways in which the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, or ‘Brexit’, will impact British farmers due to changes to the Common Agricultural Policy. We believe that Brexit will have far reaching effects across the food systems in many ways, in the UK, Europe and beyond. From policy implications for food safety standards and nutrition labels, to international trade and markets, to controls on chemical pesticides and the regulation of genetically modified (GM) organisms, and to diet and public health, and more.

To reflect current discussions about Brexit and its implications, the BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 will consider food agendas in a post-Brexit future. This will reflect anticipated impacts of Brexit on the UK food system as well as implications for food agendas in other countries and regions of the world. Topics will explore the future of food in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, likely to be 2019, and more distant horizons.

The provisional programme for the symposium is available here: Provisional programme

Time Session
9:00-9:20 Registration, tea/coffee
9:20-9:30 Welcome
9:30-10:15 Provocations

Brexit Implications for Food Agendas

Chair: Rachael Taylor

Speakers to include: Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, The Linseed Farm, University of Brighton, and the Institute of Development Studies

10:15-11:15 Session 1 – Policy Dynamics

Chair: Abigail Wincott

Prof. Erik Millstone

The future of UK food & agricultural policies post-Brexit

Peter Senker

Post-Truth Politics and Food Poverty in the UK  after Brexit

11:15-11:45 Tea/coffee break
11:45-13:15 Session 2 – Panel Discussion – Learning from Global Discourses

Chair: Rachael Durrant

Three 15-minute presentations followed by 45 minutes of open discussion

Dipak Sarker

Use, History and Promises, Both True and Untrue, of Genetically-Modified (GM) Crops: Reflections Post-Brexit

Jennifer Constantine

Prospects for the Sustainable Development Goals in post-Brexit Britain: learning from Brazil’s experience with food and nutrition governance

Rachael Taylor

Finding the Future in the Past: Agroecology and Remnants of Colonialism in Senegal

13:15-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:00 Future Food Agendas

Synergies for Policy, Practice and Research

Chair: Jennifer Constantine

15:00-16:00 Session 3 – Sustaining Farming through Brexit

Chair: Dipak Sarker

Adrian Ely

Transforming Food Systems in Brighton and Hove – Local Opportunities within a Changing Global Context

Helena Howe

Farming through Brexit

16:00-16:20 Tea/coffee break
16:20-17:20 Session 4 – Ecological Knowledge and Policy

Chair: TBC

Elise Wach

What scope for food sovereignty in a post-Brexit Future?

Jeremy Evans

A radical Regionalisation of fisheries quota for LIFE: developing new mechanisms of emancipatory fisheries governance

17:20 Close – move to Earth and Stars, 46 Windsor Street, Brighton, BN1 1RJ for a social evening

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future – Symposium Programme Available

Monday 6th of February 2017

9:00 – 17:20

Auditorium, Brighthelm Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD

Provisional Programme  – a full version of the programme with abstracts is available by following this link: Provisional programme

Time Session
9:00-9:20 Registration, tea/coffee
9:20-9:30 Welcome
9:30-10:15 Provocations

Brexit Implications for Food Agendas

Speakers to include: Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, The Linseed Farm, University of Sussex, University of Brighton, and the Institute of Development Studies
10:15-11:15 Session 1 – Policy Dynamics
Prof. Erik Millstone

The future of UK food & agricultural policies post-Brexit

Peter Senker

Post-Truth Politics and Food Poverty in the UK  after Brexit

11:15-11:45 Tea/coffee break
11:45-13:15 Session 2 – Panel Discussion – Learning from Global Discourses

Three 15-minute presentations followed by 45 minutes of open discussion

Dipak Sarker

Use, History and Promises, Both True and Untrue, of Genetically-Modified (GM) Crops: Reflections Post-Brexit

Jennifer Constantine

Prospects for the Sustainable Development Goals in post-Brexit Britain: learning from Brazil’s experience with food and nutrition governance

Rachael Taylor

Finding the Future in the Past: Agroecology and Remnants of Colonialism in Senegal

13:15-14:15 Lunch
14:15-15:00 Future Food Agendas

Synergies for Policy, Practice and Research

15:00-16:00 Session 3 – Sustaining Farming through Brexit
Adrian Ely

Transforming Food Systems in Brighton and Hove – Local Opportunities within a Changing Global Context

Helena Howe

Farming through Brexit

16:00-16:20 Tea/coffee break
16:20-17:20 Session 4 – Ecological Knowledge and Policy
Elise Wach

What scope for food sovereignty in a post-Brexit Future?

Jeremy Evans

A radical Regionalisation of fisheries quota for LIFE: developing new mechanisms of emancipatory fisheries governance

17:20 Close – move to Earth and Stars, 46 Windsor Street, Brighton, BN1 1RJ for a social evening

 

Discovering Food in Brighton through Photography

Last week BSUFN facilitated a workshop hosted by the University of Brighton Student’s Union. During this workshop students explored food through photography and photography through food.

The workshop gave an opportunity to experiment with using photography to explore food issues, create narratives around food, initiate communication and engagement on food issues, and as a research method for food topics. During the workshop participants spent time with a camera in central Brighton capturing scenes related to food.

Workshop participants found that when looking for food-related things to photograph they noticed things in Brighton which they would not otherwise notice. The resulting photos paid attention to details which individually may seem insignificant but when seen together create narratives around food issues in central Brighton.

One of the narratives which emerged from the photographs was around food waste, including seagulls eating food from bins and even a discarded refrigerator with rotting milk inside.

    

Given the time of year, one theme which arose in photos was the use of Christmas in food retail.

Again considering the retailing of food, a third narrative which emerged through photos was the use of language on boards outside cafes. This identified humour, descriptive and romanticised language.

Discussion during the workshop also led to ideas for further exploration of food through photography so watch this space for more events and news on this method in food dialogues!

Other resources about the use of photography as a creative method in food research and dialogue are available here.

BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 – Call for Abstracts

Call for Abstracts

Food Agendas in a Post-Brexit Future

Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network Annual Symposium 2017

6th February 2017

There has been much talk of the ways in which the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, or ‘Brexit’, will impact British farmers due to changes to the Common Agricultural Policy.  We believe that Brexit will have far reaching effects across the food systems in many ways, in the UK, Europe and beyond. From policy implications for food safety standards and nutrition labels, to international trade and markets, to controls on chemical pesticides and the regulation of genetically modified (GM) organisms, and to diet and public health, and more.

To reflect current discussions about Brexit and its implications, the BSUFN Annual Symposium 2017 will consider food agendas in a post-Brexit future. This may reflect anticipated impacts of Brexit on the UK food system as well as implications for food agendas in other countries and regions of the world. Topics may explore the future of food in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, likely to be 2019, or a more distant horizon.

Submissions are invited from researchers, undergraduate and postgraduate students, non-academic organisations, community groups, practitioners, policy-makers, and other interested parties or individuals. Submissions from any disciplinary background are welcomed. We welcome submissions for presentations, posters, or discussion sessions. As much of the outcome of Brexit may be uncertain, stimulants for discussion sessions are particularly welcome.

Please submit an abstract of no more than 350 words in length. The abstract should contain a brief description of the topic, a title, contact details of the corresponding individual, names of any collaborators, and the format of the presentation or other contribution. Abstracts should be submitted via e-mail to food.network@sussex.ac.uk by 17:00 on Friday the 16th of December 2016. Applicants will be informed of the outcome of their submission no later than Friday the 23rd of December 2016.

If you would like to become a member of the Brighton and Sussex Universities Food Network, you can register your interest using the online form or by expressing your interest via e-mail to food.network@sussex.ac.uk

The BSUFN Symposium will be a full day on the 6th of February 2017. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. The symposium will be held in Brighton, UK.

Registration to attend the BSUFN Symposium is £10. Registration will open soon, please check the website for further details.

Details for the symposium will be made available online as they are updated. Please check the website for updates.

Farming in the UK: can we nourish ourselves from this land?

This post is written by Elise Wach and was originally posted on the Institute of Development Studies blog site on the 14th of October 2016.

The recent dispute over food prices between the UK’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco, and the UK’s biggest food and grocery manufacturer, Unilever shines a light on a deeper problem in the global food system: our reliance on food that is grown elsewhere.

This is compounded by a drive for healthy eating in the UK which tends to heavily emphasise a tropical diet. From public messaging about your 5 a Day which almost always include pictures of bananas, to cookbooks such as The Happy Pear and I Quit Sugar which rely heavily on the use of coconut and avocados, there seem to be strong messages that that it is not possible to eat locally and ecologically-grown food while also being happy and well nourished.

Is this true?

Not in my experience.

Is all British food bland and stodgy?

When I tell people that I grow food as part of a community food project near Brighton, I often get this response, “ah so what do you grow? Potatoes and cabbages?”

Volunteers with the Food Project, Brighton

Well, yes we do, and they are really tasty by the way, but we also grow well over a hundred other foods, ranging from sweet juicy figs to exquisite mizuna salads and the best pumpkins I’ve ever tasted. We also grow grains (rye, spelt, oats) in small amounts and keep a dozen chickens who lay the most delicious, nourishing eggs I have ever eaten.

All this on one acre of otherwise windy and chalky hillside near the sea (we have great hedging which protects us), with about 4-6 people leisurely working two afternoons per week, approximately the equivalent of one person’s normal work week.

Is eating local only viable for the middle classes?

While many others have been demonstrating the potential to eat well and local in Britain – from the Great British Revival BBC programme (and cookbook) to those keen on foraging the free weeds on our doorsteps, it seems to be a pretty middle class preoccupation. People on low incomes are less likely to be able to afford a veg box or buy organic, much less spend time volunteering on a community food project.

Lack of policy support is a major factor keeping local and organic foods out of reach for the wider public. Part of the problem could also be that policymakers, like consumers, are unaware of the potential for and benefits of growing nourishing food to be consumed locally. Farming policies and reports in Scotland (PDF), for example, tend to be based on the idea that animal grazing is the only viable way to farm in the hills.

However, some people – crofters and the Tap o’ Noth Farm, for example – do continue to grow arable crops, including not just oats and barley but also vegetables such as purple sprouting broccoli, and even tea, in addition to keeping sheep and cows.

Such initiatives tend to be dismissed as anomalies but what if we were curious about what the outliers could show us?

Treating food and agriculture as separate entities contributes to the problem

Another problem is that many policies treat agriculture separately from food. Farming policies aim to boost exports, support farmers and, more recently, reduce environmental degradation (whether they effectively do this is another matter). They do not consider what foods are being produced or who is consuming them.

The largest container ship in the world - 18000 teu - departing Southampton Seen in the upper swinging ground. Credit: Graham and Dairne - Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Scotland is a bit ahead of the game in that it does have a National Food and Drink policy (in contrast to England). While it does include a focus on local production for local consumption, the emphasis is still strongly on exports and I cannot help but think that the two are contradictory. As a recent report by the Food Research Collaboration argues, we need to transform Agricultural Policy into Sustainable Food Policy.

Agriculture should not just be about economics with a bit of ‘greening’ thrown in – it needs to be about food (as well as livelihoods, ecology and community). And this is by no means just a British or European problem. Professor Henrietta Moore, Director of UCL Institute for Global Prosperity recently called for a revision of the mechanisms that “keep farmers trapped on the treadmill of producing for international markets at the expense of themselves and their families.”

Time, costs, and affordability perceptions

As for why people do not have the time and money to buy good quality local food, this seems to be a question that goes beyond the issue of farming to issues of housing, economy and lifestyles more broadly.

Value added at the farm represents only 5% of what UK consumers spend on UK food and drink, so increasing (or decreasing) costs there is not really going to make a huge difference. Looking at mark ups for processing and retailer margins would be more relevant. And with some of the highest costs of housing in the world, it is questionable whether the lack of access to quality food in the UK has to do with the cost of food itself or the cost of housing and other basic needs.

But there are also interesting questions about perception of cost, quality and affordability. I’ve experienced this dichotomy between cost perception and affordability at a personal level.

A friend of mine felt that she “could not afford” an organic cabbage (which can cost up to £1.60 in a high-end supermarket) and yet was happy to regularly pay for avocados which cost £1 each. This indicates that for some, consuming locally produced foods is largely related to price perception – whether prices are ‘too expensive’ or ‘too cheap’, rather than whether they are actually affordable. There are also issues about what is perceived as healthy – the rise of so-called ‘super foods’ might be coming at the expense of regular consumption of nourishing and affordable staples, as well as the expense of food security and ecological resilience in other countries.

Where do we draw the line(s) about what we consider to be local food?

So, if we were to consume more local foods, what would constitute being as ‘local’? The answer is not as straightforward as you would think.

West Peckham Polytunnels. Credit: Chris Guy - Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Food Meters project, for example, indicates that the geographical radius for local is different in different areas. And this is further complicated by the fact that having less food miles, does not necessarily mean that foods are more sustainable – organic tomatoes imported from Spain may have been grown and transported using less energy and producing less pollution than tomatoes grown in the UK in heated polytunnels or with high levels of fertilisers and pesticides. A third option, and the one that makes the most sense to me, would be to simply give up the idea of eating tomatoes all year round and simply enjoy them in the summer.

If we can learn anything from our past mistakes it is that we need to be thinking of food and farming in a more integrated way. And as Albert Einstein is famously quoted as saying, “we cannot solve our problems with the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Instead of resigning ourselves, perhaps conveniently, to claims such as “New Zealand lamb is more sustainable than British lamb”, it might be more productive to ask what could be done to make British lamb more eco-friendly.

And if a certain food simply does not grow well here, we might ask ourselves how our diets could shift to a more local yet still nourishing diet?

Holistic thinking, which is one the ten principles from the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (PDF), could be one approach for this.

Who should be making decisions about our food systems and how?

According to principles of Food Sovereignty (PDF), decisions about how to improve our food systems should be centred on the realities of farmers (particularly small-scale and family farmers) and consumers themselves, rather than solely determined by the momentum of markets, the priorities of large businesses (including large-scale industrial farms) or the perceptions of high level government officials who are often removed from the realities of farming and eating on a budget.

But how can we manage our limits in understanding and our own biases?

One option is to use processes in which farmers and consumers come together to reflect and to hash it out, which we are using in our Pathways to Agroecological Food Systems project. This includes bringing together diverse groups of people to discuss and debate what an agroecological food system might look like at a local and national level. It entails building on people’s own knowledge while also presenting them with information that may challenge their perceptions.

One of the most important aspects is that the process includes a focus on the potentials (notice the plural of that word) for things to be different. It entails thinking both about the implications of our current food systems as well as the type of food systems we want to be creating for our future generations.

We recently had our first UK-focused workshop for the Agroecological Food Systems project, which follows on from workshops with farmers in Senegal and Nicaragua, and will be sharing some of our initial insights from our work in all of these countries soon. It is certainly an interesting time to be considering these issues as the UK begins to Brexit – watch this space.

Image credits: fruit bowl – Avi8r; the Food Project Brighton (reproduced with permission from the author); polytunnels in Kent, UK – Chris Guy; container ship – credit Graham and Dairne