Academic, industry and charitable organisations working with disadvantaged communities to co-create new ways to put healthy, sustainable food on everyone’s tables.

Disadvantaged communities left behind by the traditional UK food system will have a bigger say in how healthy and sustainable food is produced and distributed through a new research project announced today.

The project brings academic researchers and food industry representatives together with charity leaders to reimagine how food policy, food products and food supply chains can be developed. The project will focus on working together with disadvantaged communities to jointly imagine new solutions to address a lack of access to healthy, sustainable food. The project will develop a framework to ensure that food is affordable, desirable and fits with the complex demands on people’s lives. This means that regular consumption of a nutritious diet, produced in a way that is good for our planet, will be an attainable aspiration for all members of our society.

Preliminary work has shown that people living in disadvantaged communities have the desire to eat a healthier diet and are aware that good nutrition is closely linked to good physical and mental health.

Co-production of healthy, sustainable food systems for disadvantaged communities will be led by Professor Carol Wagstaff (pictured) from the University of Reading.

Professor Wagstaff said:

“People who are currently struggling to put healthy, sustainable food on their tables each day are at the heart of this new project. Many struggle, not because they lack aspiration or knowledge about food, but because of the real impact of financial or time poverty.”

“The project, which brings together expertise from the Universities of Reading, Cranfield, Sussex, Plymouth and Kent, plus numerous partners from the food industry, civil organisations and policy makers, will give a voice and power to those who are so often left behind when food systems, food policies and novel products are designed. The work will be jointly carried out between our researchers, people in disadvantaged communities, policy makers and food producers to find new ways to tackle systemic issues around food inequalities.”

“Together, we will help to give everyone access to a diet that meets their health needs and which is produced in a way that is good for our planet.”

The project will focus on sharing knowledge and learning from working with people from a variety of disadvantaged communities (Whitley, Berkshire; Brighton and Hove, West Sussex; Tower Hamlets, London; and Plymouth, Devon), small and large food businesses, and policy makers.

As part of the programme, communities will co-create policies to prevent food loss from ‘mainstream’ supply chains, and identify where increased sustainable production of primary food ingredients is needed.

The new research project is part of a £24m boost seeking to fundamentally transform the UK food system, by placing healthy people and a healthy natural environment at its centre.

The work is one of four interdisciplinary research projects to have received funding through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF).

Professor Guy Poppy, Programme Director of the Transforming the UK Food Systems SPF Programme said:

“Never before has the role that the food system plays in both environmental and human health been so centre-stage. Major issues facing humanity such as addressing climate change and building back better post-Covid will be essential in improving health and wellbeing.

“I am really excited by the ambitious and transformative projects we have selected for funding – every single person in the UK could benefit from this research and we will ensure that the best evidence is generated to answer and offer solutions to the questions which matter and the decisions which need to be made in Transforming the UK food system.”

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