Food publications round-up: global food, food issues census, food security, school food
A round-up of recent sustainable development publications highlighted by our partner, the Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN). For more news on sustainable development research and publications, join the network and receive regular SDRN mailings.
In this round-up:
- Growing a better future (Oxfam report)
- Food Issues Census 2011 (FEC report)
- Food security, nutrition and sustainability (Earthscan book)
- The benefits of procuring school meals through the Food for Life Partnership (NEF report)
Read about more recent publications and research in the latest SDRN bulletin…
This report argues that today’s global food system works only for a few – for most of us it is broken.
It describes a new age of growing crisis: food price spikes and oil price hikes, devastating weather events, financial meltdowns, and global contagion. Behind each of these, it suggests, slow-burn crises smoulder: creeping and insidious climate change, growing inequality, chronic hunger and vulnerability, the erosion of our natural resources.
Based on the experience and research of Oxfam staff and partners around the world, this report aims to highlight how the food system is at once a driver of this fragility and highly vulnerable to it. New research is presented, forecasting price rises for staple grains in the range of 120–180 per cent within the next two decades, as resource pressures mount and climate change takes hold.
The 2011 Food Issues Census is an in-depth analysis of the food and farming charitable sector, based on a survey of over 300 organisations.
The census provides a frank assessment of the activities and capacity of civil society groups working on food or farming in the UK. It details a diverse sector, powered by an army of tens of thousands of volunteers working on a wide range of environmental and health initiatives that focus mainly on education and service provision.
It estimates that UK civil society working on food and farming:
- consists of up to 25,000 mostly small organisations, out of 870,000 civil society organisations nationally;
- spends at most £700 million per year on food and farming issues, which amounts to less than 1% of total UK voluntary sector and charity income;
- spends one penny on food and farming-related activities for every £2 that consumers spend on food;
- employs at most 20,000 full-time equivalent staff, compared with around 634,000 across UK civil society.
The top issues for food and farming organisations were local food, education, community development, sustainability issues (including biodiversity and climate change), and adult health and nutrition. Issues that only small numbers of respondents worked on included: fishing, trade policy, labour conditions and consumer protection.
The report intends to help the sector’s organisations – big and small – in their strategic planning and grant funding applications, and is accompanied by an online tool that enables people to explore the survey data in more detail.
As the threats of food insecurity loom ever larger, the world faces the sad irony of food shortages in the global South alongside a purported ‘obesity epidemic’ in the global North. The twin issues of food production and food access are of particular concern in the context of climate change, ‘peak oil’, biofuels, and land grabs by wealthy nations.
This new book, edited by Geoffrey Lawrence, Kristen Lyons and Tabatha Wallington, seeks to offer critical insights from international scholars, with chapters on global food security, supermarket power, new technologies, and sustainability.
The book assesses the contributions of diet and nutrition research in building socially just and environmentally sustainable food systems and provides policy recommendations to improve the health and environmental status of contemporary agri-food systems. The book features contributions from a range of social science perspectives, including sociology, anthropology, public health and geography, with case study material drawn from throughout the world.
nef (the new economics foundation) was commissioned by the Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) to undertake a study of the wider social, economic and environmental impacts of FFLP procurement practices for school meals, the findings of which are set out in this draft report.
Following a Social Return on Investment (SROI) approach, the analysis is based on engagement with key stakeholders involved in the supply of ingredients for school meals in Nottinghamshire and Plymouth.
Key stakeholders were contacted to help identify the principal outcomes from a focus on seasonal, local produce. These were then valued to reveal the impact that local contracts for school meal ingredients have for local and wider society.
Key findings include:
- in Nottinghamshire, spending for school meals locally within an FFLP framework was calculated to generate over £5 million in value each year. The share of ingredient spend on seasonal, local produce has risen dramatically, by a nominal £1.65 million per year, returning £3.11 in social, economic and environmental value for every £1 spent;
- in Plymouth, the change in spending on seasonal, local produce is valued at £384,000 per year as a result of adopting FFLP practices. This spending into the local economy is found to generate £1.2 million of value per year, a return of £3.04 for every £1 spent.
It is important to highlight that this study represents only a partial analysis. It does not take account of any of the health, educational or cultural benefits of a whole school approach to food which are the primary objectives of FFLP. Adding these benefits would result in a substantially larger positive return to investment.
The Sustainable Development Research Network (SDRN) is an initiative funded by both Defra and the Department for Transport, and is coordinated by the Policy Studies Institute in London.
SDRN aims to facilitate and strengthen the links between providers of research and policymakers across government, in order to improve evidence-based policymaking to deliver the UK government’s objectives for sustainable development.
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