World-renowned speakers at IKnowFood Launch lay out food resilience challenges, and potential solutions.

21 June 2017 / IKnowFood

On 8th June 2017, over a hundred people representing business, policy, academic and public interests gathered at the public launch of the Global Food Security-funded IKnowFood project.

Guests were welcomed to the launch, which was hosted in the York Management School, by the PI of the project Professor Bob Doherty, who gave the audience an overview of our ambitious research programme which aims to integrate producer, supply chain and consumer perspectives to develop a unifying concept of food systems resilience, alongside practical tools and knowledge that can ensure the future security of the UK food system.

Attendees at the event were then fortunate enough to hear from three excellent external speakers who represent the research, policy and practical sides of food resilience thinking.

Bob Costanza – Professor and VC’s Chair in Public Policy at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University – began with an overview of the ecological underpinnings of food resilience. Food systems – along with our economies in general – are reliant on the adequate and effective management of natural resources, Costanza argued, yet we are degrading and destroying environments at an unprecedented rate which undermines future food security. Changes in agricultural management practice, and proper ‘valuation’ of the ecosystem services that support food production, are required to enhance decision making and minimise future food-security risks. This requires transdisciplinary and integrated thinking of the type that projects such as IKnowFood are beginning to provide.

Building on the subject of the need for inter- and trans-disciplinary thinking, Professor Tim Lang, of the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, then gave a thought-provoking talk which centred on food systems as a ‘messy’ multi-faceted problem. Prof. Lang laid out the stark reality of a food system driven by a strong set of international economic and behavioural drivers into a state of unsustainable ‘lock in’. He called for a global response, incorporating new policies, cultural shifts, and innovative thinking, to break out of this system of unsustainable food production and consumption; highlighting the need to develop a shared set of standards or values by which we judge the nutritional benefits, sustainability and resilience of the food that we consume.

Finally, Paul Crewe – Head of Sustainability at Sainsbury’s supermarkets – presented a glimpse into how the retail sector is addressing the issues inherent in delivering sustainable food to consumers. As a company with a core set of socially-oriented values, the retailer is acutely aware of the impacts it places along its supply chain, and of the inherent risks faced by a failure to respond to global grand challenges such as climate change. A key area where Sainsbury’s are taking a leading role in the sector is in the minimisation of food waste.  Paul highlighted their current progress in minimising waste to landfill, with innovations including consumer-focused behavioural change programmes, and projects to ensure that un-sellable food is donated to charity, used in animal feed, or (as a last resort) used in energy generation.

The event finished with a drinks reception where guests were able to discuss the ideas and challenges presented with the speakers and the IKnowFood project team.

Written by Dr Chris West