Resilience of the UK Food System in a global context - Programme Coordination

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Geography - SoGE

Abstract

Recent years have seen a significant interest in global and UK food security in policy, science and business circles, and in the more general press. Heightened by the 2007/08 food price crisis this is further driven by growing
concerns about increasingly unsustainable dietary patterns. These have given rise to a growing number of overweight and obese people worldwide, while hunger and under-nutrition continues to be a problem, even in the
UK. Changes in climate and associated weather extremes, in trade arrangements, and the continued unsustainability of many agricultural and fisheries production systems, and further stresses related to dietary changes are increasing the vulnerability of the overall food system. This concern has led to the growing awareness of the need to increase resilience of our food system to such stresses. The interest is however also driven by recognition of the need to reduce negative outcomes of the food system activities (from producing to consuming food) for the environment, and for health and other socioeconomic parameters. These issues are set against the need to maintain vibrant, competitive agri-food enterprises (and their associated livelihoods) which underpin the food system.

A set of research projects is being funded as part of the £14.5 million GFS Food System Resilience Programme which, collectively, will provide policy makers and other stakeholders with information about how they can improve the
resilience of the UK food system. Three key components are required to maximize the impact of the GFS Resilience Programme: (i) mutual awareness-raising and integration of individual projects to add value to each other and establish the intellectual identity of the Programme by deriving new insights from the various projects can help to gain a better understanding of overall resilience building; (ii) stakeholder engagement and matching of needs to GFS
outputs; and (iii) communications within the Programme and with broader communites. All three will depend on effective management and coordination which is proposed in three phases: Planning (October 2016-early 2017); Delivery (early 2017-September 2021); Building Legacy (October 2019-September 2021).

Technical Summary

The UK food system needs to be resilient to changes in the varied socioeconomic and environmental parameters which affect it. Against this background, the £14.5 million GFS Food System Resilience Programme is addressing three main areas:
1. Optimising the productivity, resilience and sustainability of agricultural systems and landscapes
2. Optimising resilience of food supply chains both locally and globally
3. Influencing food choice for health, sustainability and resilience at the individual and household level.

A coordination unit across projects is tasked to synthesize research findings and develop outreach and engagement activities with stakeholders in the food sector. An initial workshop with Phase I PIs in early 2017 will map projects against thematic areas of the GFS Programme and agree on a framework for results synthesis as well as outreach activities. In addition, the workshop will review projects 'stakeholder engagement plans, and map out known stakeholders ' information needs across the projects. The outcome of these exercises will be a draft map of stakeholders and their information needs, a draft work program to synthesise project findings into joint research outputs and
a draft communications strategy to form the basis of ongoing communications activity through the Programme. A mid-term review will help to bring synthesis results across projects together against the earlier-agreed food system framework, and assess stakeholder engagement and impact, with special emphasis on the KE fund and options for stakeholder action. A final PI workshop will finalise the synthesis of project outputs in the context of the food systems resilience and in relation to the conceptual framework for presenting to a stakeholder workshop with the view of determining future research needs and impact pathways regarding implementation options for food system actors.

Planned Impact

The overall aim of the GFS Food System Resilience Programme is to provide the evidence base to underpin the UK 's strategic approach to food security and create a more resource efficient and resilient food system in a changing world
by supporting interdisciplinary research. Impacts to assist are therefore envisioned to help businesses, policy and civil society in a number of ways, via a process of translation of research findings into tangible actions for stakeholders. This needs to be a joint process based on stakeholder fora to discuss options:

1. Existing businesses (via either increased profits or reduced costs or both): examples include more drought resistant farming systems; better streamlined procedures for energy and water use in food processing reducing costs and
bringing environmental benefits; more effective marketing of healthier food products.
2. New businesses (i.e. start-ups and spin-outs): examples include local start-ups for decentralised food production, processing and manufacture (also drawing on outputs from the ESPRC/ESRC Re-Distributed Manufacturing
programme).
3. The UK generally through inward investment (i.e. new money into the UK): examples include the potential for increased foreign investment in agri-food as weather extremes increase in other parts of the world. (The UK Kingdom is currently the world's fourth largest recipient of foreign direct investment, with ca. 14% being in food and drink.)
4. Public policy makers: examples include information for agri-food, food safety, public health and trade at local and national levels.
5. Public service providers: examples include better agri-food aspects of environmental protection, health care, waste management and water supply.

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