Community food programmes barely touch the lives of low income families in Toronto — and why should they?

This morning I had a long conversation with Rachel Loopstra, a Canadian researcher now at Oxford University who unfortunately wasn’t able to come to our recent workshop on food poverty.

She told me about some research carried out in her home-city of Toronto, published as Food Insecurity and Participation in Community Food Programs among Low-income Toronto Families in the Canadian Journal of Public Health in 2009. Continue reading

Integrating perspectives on consumer perceptions of food safety, nutrition and waste

ESRCOn 16th April the 2nd in the series of ESRC funded seminars on Food Options, Opinions and Decisions (FOOD) took places at the Food Standards Agency in London. The aim of the series is to understand and improve UK consumers’ decisions about nutrition, food safety, and domestic food waste.

Continue reading

Martine Barons on taking steps rather than swallowing #foodpoverty whole

Martine Barons, is a Research Fellow in the department of statistics at the University of Warwick. She’s a mathmetician who seeks to understand complex problems involving many different types of organisations and people.

Listen to everything she says – but the video above starts at a point where she talks about taking a pragmatic approach to doing what can be done.

The role of education in addressing #foodpoverty

Should people be taught how to eat healthily, and how to spend their money?

Are these kind of skills part of the solution of reducing food poverty?

Some views in the group that there’s a paternalism to it, a middle class bias, that won’t help.

But there was a positive example from Emma Schoolar from the Trussell Trust.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that supports local communities to run food banks where there is a need, has piloted an ‘Eat Well Spend Less’ course for people on long-term low incomes.

The course was piloted in Salisbury recently and funding has been received to spread further.

Emma said the pilot went really well in Salisbury. Recipe cards, ideas and classes are all part of the initiative.

Organisations running food banks are going to start offering this course. It’s going to be an addition to the food banks – no compulsory need for people to do the course.

What needs to be done to make a healthy eating Birmingham in 2025?

Lincolnshire_croppedIt’s the carrot and the stick with some things to entice people and some people to stop them.

A session at the Birmingham Food Group spent time thinking of what needs to be changed.

Stopping? We wouldn’t allow fizzy drinks to be sold

We have housing developers in our sights. We wouldn’t allow homes to be built unless they had mini reservoirs to conserve water.

We wouldn’t let developers build unless there was good open space and we’d make sure that planners had to consider health before they approved a planning application.

We’d encourage community orchards and places where people could grow things and pick things that could be grown.

We’d ban diesel cars and we’d make healthy food cheaper.


We’d redirect subsidies towards healthy foods.

We’d like to encourage communities to run competitions around civic pride. Gardening. Flower and produce shows and competitions for streets and for individuals. Would the house with the broken down car be shamed into tidying up? Some, maybe.

It’s a long list. How could we do it? Devolution of powers to Birmingham could be a start.

A different society?

If food poverty is just a symptom of poverty and we measure most things in terms of Economic Growth – What would happen if we manage and measure things differently – with different metrics?

What if we didn’t measure success as the amount of people in work or money earned but instead we measure the value we’ve added to society – bringing people out of poverty?

If that’s our vision what should we Stop Doing, Start Doing and Continue Doing?


Silo management
Short term-ism
dependency culture


Collaboration and partnership working
Joined up thinking
Co-production of things
Restore peoples dignity – not demonizing people that need support
Take a 10 year minimum long term perspective
Invite diversity
Self sufficient, self reliant models (eg social supermarkets)
Engage with politicians, get them to take responsibility and hold them to account
Recognize common issues to mobilse people, organisation and business to make a difference – driven around projects


Develop further innovation
Network – continue to invite a diverse range of people to contribute
Influencing the policy makers

What would a healthy Birmingham in 2025 look like?

IMAG2190The Greeks invented Utopian thinking whereby people would imagine what the world around you could look like.

In the West Midlands, the Birmingham Food Group imagined what 2025 may look like and all the people are well fed.

What would that look like?

A mix of a green ‘Back to the Future’ and the fairer elements of 2015 society flourishing.

  • A good minimum wage.
  • Free Primary school meals.
  • Vertical allotments to make use of space.
  • New houses would have dining rooms.
  • Cookery would be a social pursuit that groups of people would enjoy – families even.
  • There would be more energy and investment in the arts and family life and more creativity.
  • There would be global production but hydroponic production in disused car parks.
  • There would be roof gardens so people could produce their own.
  • New houses, instead of having cramped kitchens with barely enough room for a cooker, mean that people can cook for pleasure not for function.
  • Better mental health would follow.
  • The argument for a well-fed society is a healthier society.
  • Our schools would prosper and our children would achieve better.
  • Healthier people would mean the NHS would be under less strain.
  • Farmers would be better paid.
  • Home cooking would be revered and celebrated.


Nutrition and public health

Food poverty, food insecurity

Food safety and integrity

Urban food growing

Food and the city economy

Global food security

Secured By miniOrange