How to make a just food future: Alternative foodways for a changing world

Bringing together academics, policy makers, artists and frontline practitioners, ‘How to Make a Just Food Future’ reflected on the state of food systems in the UK and internationally.

Organised by a team including Dr Megan Blake, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield, the two-and-a-half day event questioned assumptions and challenged participants to think beyond food, presenting examples of ways in which collaborative working can set the agenda for a just food future.

The conference was particularly timely and relevant with political and economic uncertainty looking set to continue beyond 2019 with Brexit, austerity, trade wars and geopolitical instability having global repercussions.

delegates at the Just Food Future conference

While the conference illustrated the scope beyond food that work in food justice can have through community groups and organisations, presenters and discussants also talked about food waste; drew on the lived experiences of people experiencing food poverty; and showcased alternative models of provision, in order to show how food injustices pour into wider issues of inequality, agency and control in food systems.

Many of the initiatives discussed at the conference were rooted in community or self-organised groups who were working to alleviate logistical problems of food access. These micro cases reveal the structures of power underpinning food systems and how these can deprive people of agency.

Event organiser Dr Megan Blake said: "We sit at a climate crossroads, of which the food system is a key component. In the UK we are also experiencing the uncertainty of Brexit and what it will mean for our national food security.

"Our food system works better for some than it does for others. Of the three million people who are diagnosed with malnutrition, one-third of these are elderly. The jobs many food industry workers hold are very low paid and insecure. One in five children lives in a household that struggles to regularly access food to make meals that are healthy and balanced.

"Over the course of two-and-a-half days in July we brought together more than 150 scholars, activists, artists, government, private sector, and third sector participants. We wanted to provide a platform for constructive discussion, collective learning and shared understanding about holistic short-term and long-term strategies for addressing everyday food insecurity in our communities and injustices at multiple scales. The aim of the conference was to promote a dialogue around how we might work collaboratively to respond to the call for evidence that will inform the national food strategy and develop policy and practice that results in a food system that works across income divides and across generations."

As well as being part of the University of Sheffield Geography BA course, food insecurity is an important element of the University's research. Find out more:

Follow Dr Megan Blake on Twitter

Visit the Just Food Futures website

Visit the Institute for Sustainable Food website