Dr Megan Blake
Department of Geography
+44 114 222 7978
Full contact details
Department of Geography
Geography and Planning Building
Megan Blake joined Sheffield Geography first as a visiting instructor in 2000, then as lecturer in 2002. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2010. She received a PhD in Geography from Clark University in 2001.
She is a recognised expert in food security and food justice. She has an established international reputation for her research focusing on 3 intersecting strands: 1) Surplus food chains and practices of redistribution 2) Community organisations, social innovation and self-organisation, and practices of resilience 3) Social inequalities. Her work is underpinned by a practice-based theoretical approach. She works closely with local and national scale organisations and local authorities to achieve research impacts that make real change. She is actively involved in public dissemination and has organised and facilitated a number of community engagement events and conferences, has been an invited commentator on national and international TV and radio programmes, and has published in and been quoted by national and international press.
She is the creator of Food Ladders, which is a multi-scaled and asset-based approach that uses food to increase everyday food security, connect communities and increase local resilience by reducing vulnerability. Her film, More than just food, illustrates the ways in which community based food ladders can change places.
An Impact Case study based on Megan's research was submitted as part of the University of Sheffield return in 2021.
- Research interests
Megan’s research approach interrogates how social institutions, everyday practices and place produce the possibilities for and constraints on performance of everyday practices in domestic and community spaces. Her recent and current research is located within two interrelated food focused themes. The first addresses unjust foodscapes, while the second is concerned with food surplus and waste. Her work involves co-producing research knowledge that seeks to build coping, adapting and transformation in vulnerable communities and families through food. Previous research on women’s entrepreneurship informs this current work through its conceptualisations of social innovation.
Specifically, Blake’s current research focuses on how everyday food insecurity can be addressed in developed economies where the dominant mode of food production is based on commercial exchange.
More specifically, Megan Blake’s research uncovers the ways in which neoliberal austerity policies in the UK intersect with poverty to create food insecurity effects beyond hunger and poor diet. These more-than-hunger effects at the individual and household scale include poor mental and physical health, poor relationships with food, isolation and loneliness. These effects accumulate in place such that local food availability is reduced, social and commercial environments are eroded, quality of life diminished, community resilience weakened and ability to foster self-organisation undermined.
Her research demonstrates that although structurally disadvantaged, communities and the people within them have resources that can be brought to the table and mobilised to enhance resilience and create social change from within. This asset-based mentality is an alternative perspective to the commonly used deficit based approach that only focuses on lack. This insight is underpinned by Blake’s research on resilience, self-organising and social innovation.
Her work also recognises that the landscape of community-based food-using support in the UK is poorly understood. As such, narratives around food support for low-income communities has focussed on emergency support or children’s holiday provision. Blake’s research is the first in the UK to shed light on a wider landscape and range of food-using and community-based activity. These activities include emergency support but also social eating, social cooking, making and growing, and other forms of distribution such as food pantries. Moreover, many of the more than 10,000 organisations across the UK are providing mix of these services.
Blake’s research on food values, foodscapes and social justice finds that food, in addition to providing nutrients, acts as a catalyst for achieving social good by being a mechanism that brings people together in order to mobilise community-based assets, reduce loneliness, and enhance local food knowledge. And her food practices research highlights the ways that food, depending on where and how it becomes available within the supply chain and how it is used within community projects enables different effects to arise (e.g., through enhancing resilience, reproducing stigma, or by enhancing class status). How food is mobilised matters to the kinds of social effects that are achievable. When types of activities are combined, synergies are produced that further enhance the social effects of food-using support.
Her work concludes that in order to address the effects of austerity and neoliberal policies a multi-scalar approach is needed. Adjustments to social welfare systems go some way toward addressing the financial aspects, but rebuilding communities and their capacity to be resilient and self-organising requires local level social innovations. Given that many low-income communities struggle with self-organising as a result of austerity, they require support from local and regional government as well as larger scale civil society organisations. To this end, she has developed the Food Ladders approach, which provides a framework for understanding what is already going on in places while at the same time suggests a process through which local areas can work to create more just foodscapes where people enjoy food, while also enabling household wellbeing and communities that are connected.
- Journal articles
- Book reviews
- Website content
- Dictionary/encyclopaedia entries
- Factors influencing dietary practices in a transitioning food environment: a cross-sectional exploration of four dietary typologies among rural and urban Ugandan women using Photovoice. Nutrition Journal, 19.
- Fresh street: the development and feasibility of a place-based, subsidy for fresh fruit and vegetables. Journal of Public Health. View this article in WRRO
- More than just food: Food insecurity and resilient place making through community self organising.. Sustainability, 11(10). View this article in WRRO
- The multiple ontologoies of surplus food. Europe Now(27). View this article in WRRO
- What can dietary patterns tell us about the nutrition transition and environmental sustainability of diets in Uganda?. Nutrients, 11(2). View this article in WRRO
- Building an unjust foodscape: shifting governance regimes, urban place making and the making of Chinese food as ordinary in Hong Kong. Local Environment. View this article in WRRO
- Inequalities in oral health: the role of sociology. Community Dental Health, 33(2), 156-160. View this article in WRRO
- Ordinary Food Spaces in a Global City: Hong Kong. Streetnotes(Spring), 1-12.
- Information and food blogging as serious leisure. Aslib Proceedings: New Information Perspectives, 63(2-3), 204-220. View this article in WRRO
- Geographies of food: 'Afters'. Progress in Human Geography, 35(1), 104-120.
- "When I'm Doing a Dinner Party I Don't Go for the Tesco Cheeses" GENDERED CLASS DISTINCTIONS, FRIENDSHIP AND HOME ENTERTAINING. FOOD CULTURE & SOCIETY, 13(1), 115-134.
- Buying Local Food: Shopping Practices, Place, and Consumption Networks in Defining Food as "Local". Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(2), 409-426.
- Gender and Entrepreneurial Networks. REGIONAL STUDIES, 43(1), 135-149.
- Formality and friendship: Research ethics review and participatory action research. ACME, 6(3), 411-421.
- Gendered lending: Gender, context and the rules of business lending. Venture Capital, 8(2), 183-201.
- Rethinking innovation: context and gender. ENVIRON PLANN A, 37(4), 681-701.
- Migration, care, and the linked lives of dual-earner households. ENVIRON PLANN A, 36(9), 1617-1632.
- A Tale of Two Counties: Childhood Lead Poisoning, Industrialization, and Abatement in New England. Economic Geography, 74, 96-96.
- Census Tract Analysis of Lead Exposure in Rhode Island Children. Environmental Research, 74(2), 159-168.
- A Survey of Group Technology Adoption in the American Midwest. Growth and Change, 25(2), 183-205.
- Methods for Change: Engaged Capacity-building Workshops In Barron A, Browne AL, Ehgartner U, Hall SM, Pottinger L & Riston J (Ed.), Methods for Change: Impactful social science methodologies for 21st-century problems Manchester: Aspect and the University of Manchester.
- Food for thought?: Material methods for exploring food and cooking In Homes H & Hall SM (Ed.), Mundane Methods: Innovative ways to research the everyday University of Manchester Press
- Food for thought?, Mundane Methods Manchester University Press
- Landscape and the politics of food justice, Routledge Handbook of Landscape and Food (pp. 487-499). Routledge
- Finding alterity in innovation or finding innovation in alterity?, Interrogating Alterity: Alternative Economic and Political Spaces (pp. 59-73).
- Finding alterity in innovation or finding innovation in alterity?, Interrogating Alterity: Alternative Economic and Political Spaces (pp. 59-73).
- Eating In Time, Eating Up Time, Changing Families, Changing Food (pp. 187-204). Palgrave Macmillan UK View this article in WRRO
- Changing the Gender of Entrepreneurship, A Companion to Feminist Geography (pp. 179-193). Blackwell Publishing Ltd
- Rice Talks: Food and Community in a Vietnamese Town. SOCIAL & CULTURAL GEOGRAPHY, 15(4), 472-473.
- Local and regional economic development: Renegotiating power under labour.. PAP REG SCI, 81(4), 511-513.
- The Oxford handbook of economic geography. EUR URBAN REG STUD, 9(2), 188-190.
- Reconstructing Urban Regime Theory: Regulating Urban Politics in a Global Economy. Economic Geography, 75(4), 419-419.
- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/a-nation-of-inequality-how-the-uk-is-failing-to-feed-its-most-vulnerable-people-10274040.html A Nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people. Retrieved from
- https://theconversation.com/uk Why is one of the wealthiest countries in the world failing to feed its people. Retrieved from
- Critical Food Insecurity.
- Wet Markets and Hawking SAGE Publications, Inc..
- Labor Markets SAGE Publications, Inc.. View this article in WRRO
- Teaching interests
Throughout her time at Sheffield Megan has designed and taught on a wide array of modules covering substantive topics in urban geography, social geography, cultural geography, economic geography and food geographies as well as research methods and professional skills modules. She has also developed or contributed to the development of both undergraduate and taught post-graduate programmes in geography, and interdisciplinary university-level programmes.
In addition to acting as personal tutor to undergraduate students and as dissertation supervisor for level 2 and level 3 students, in addition she currently contributes to level 2 and level 3 undergraduate teaching on three modules and masters level teaching on a third.
- Professional activities
Megan takes a participatory approach to her research and actively engages with external partners both large and small. Some examples of her partners include:
- Sheffield City Council
- Doncaster Council
- Barnsley Council
- Greater Manchester Poverty Action
- Sustainable Food Cities
- Food Power
- FareShare UK (where she was their first Academic in Residence)
- The Bread and Butter Thing
- City Harvest London
- Community Shop
- Kelloggs Foundation
- Edlington Community Organisation
- Food Hall Sheffield
- Regather Coop
She frequently addresses public and academic audiences as an invited speaker and provides comment on current food and poverty related events and issues for television and radio programmes and for news and magazine articles. She has published a number of self-written articles for The Conversation and The Mint Magazine. She has also organised and delivered numerous public workshops, panel debates and conferences concerning the themes of her research.
Academic Journal Publications, Books and Book Chapters:
- Blake, M., 2019. More than just Food: Everyday food insecurity and resilient place making through community self- organising. Sustainability. 11(10), 2942; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11102942 (PDF)
- Auma, C. I., Pradeilles, R., Blake, M. K., & Holdsworth, M. (2019). What Can Dietary Patterns Tell Us about the Nutrition Transition and Environmental Sustainability of Diets in Uganda? Nutrients, 11(2), 342.
- Blake, M., 2019. The Multiple Ontologies of Surplus Food. Europe Now. 27:1-8. Online
- Blake, M., 2018. Building an Unjust Foodscape: Shifting Governance Regimes, Urban Place Making and the Making of Chinese Food as Ordinary in Hong Kong. Local Environment. Available from the publisher online (authors accepted version)
- Blake, M., 2018. Landscape and the politics of food justice. In Routledge Handbook of Landscape and Food (pp. 487-499). Routledge.
- Blake, M.K., (2017) Building an unjust foodscape: shifting governance regimes, urban place making and the making of Chinese food as ordinary in Hong Kong. Local Environment, pp.1-16.
- Gibson, B. M. Blake and S Baker (2016). Inequalities in Oral Health: the role of sociology. British Association for the Study of Community Dentistry. 33(2):156-160.
- Blake, MK (2015) Wet Markets and Hawking, in Ken Albala (ed) The Sage Enclyopedia of Food Issues. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Vol. 3 pp1477-80.
- Blake, MK. (2013) Ordinary food spaces in a global city: Hong Kong. Streetnotes. 21:1-12.
- Blake, MK (2011) Labour Markets, in D. Southerton (ed.) Encyclopaedia of Consumer Culture. Thousand Oaks: Sage. Pp 833-35.
- Blake, MK (2011) Nigeria, in K. Albala (ed.) Food Cultures of the World Encyclopaedia: Volume 1 African and the Middle East. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Pp.141-150.
- Blake, MK (2011) Zimbabwe, in K. Albala (ed.) Food Cultures of the World Encyclopaedia: Volume 1 Africa and the Middle East. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group, Pp. 209-214.
- Cox, AM and MK Blake (2011) Information and Food Blogging as Serious Leisure. Aslib Proceedings, 63 (2/3):204-220.
- Cook, I, K Hobson, L Hallett, IV, J Guthman, A Murphy, A Hulme, M Sheller, L Crewe, D Nally, E Roe, C Mather, P Kingsbury, R Slocum, S Imai, J Duruz, C Philo, H Buller, M Goodman, A Hayes-Conroy, J Hayes-Conroy, L Tucker, M Blake, R Le Heron, H Putnam, D Maye, and H Henderson. (2011) Geographies of food: 'Afters'. Progress in Human Geography, 35(1):104-120.
- Blake, MK, JCL Mellor and L Crane (2010) “Buying Local Food”, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 100(2): 409-426.
- Blake, MK (2010) Finding innovation in alterity or finding alterity in innovation?, in D Fuller, A Jonas and R Lee (eds) Alternative Economic and Political Spaces. Ashgate. Pp. 59-74.
- Mellor, JCL, MK Blake and L Crane (2010) “‘When I’m doing a dinner party I don’t go for the Tesco cheeses, it’s that sort of level, you know’: Class distinctions, friendship and home entertaining”, Food, Culture and Society, 13(1):111-130.
- Blake, MK, JCL Mellor, L Crane and B Osz (2009) Eating in time; Eating up time, in Jackson, P (ed) Changing families/Changing food. Palgrave-Macmillan. Pp 187-205.
- Hanson, S and MK Blake (2009) “Gender and Entrepreneurial Networks”, Regional Studies, 43(1):135-149.
- Blake, MK (2008) It Takes a Village: Women’s entrepreneurship, resource networks, and place. VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken, Germany. (Review available from http://www.egrg.org.uk/bkreview2009_10.html).
- Blake, MK (2007) “Formality and Friendship: Some reflections on the University Research Ethics review process”, ACME-An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 6(3):172-181.
- Blake, MK (2006) “Gendered Lending: Gender, context, and the rules of business lending”, Venture Capital, An international journal of business finance, 8(2):183-201.
- Blake, MK and S Hanson (2005) “Rethinking Innovation: Context and Gender”, Environment and Planning: A, 37: 681-701.
- Hanson, S and MK Blake (2005) Changing the gender of entrepreneurship, in Nelson, L. and Seager, J. (eds) The Companion to Feminist Geography. Oxford: Blackwell. Pp179-193.
- Bailey, AJ; Blake, MK, and TJ Cooke (2004) “Migration, Care and the Linked Lives of dual-earner households”, Environment and Planning: A, 36:1617-1632.
- Bailey, AJ, Sargent, JD and MK Blake (1998) “A tale of two counties: Childhood lead poisoning, industrialization, and abatement in New England”, Economic Geography, 74 (Extra issue):96-111.
- Sargent, JD, Bailey, AJ, Simon, P, Blake, MK, and MA Dalton (1997) “Census Tract Analysis of Lead Exposure in Rhode Island Children”, Environmental Research, 74:159-168.
- Knudsen, DC, Jacobs, FR, Conway, D and MK Blake (1994) “A Survey of Group Technology Adoption in the American Midwest”, Growth and Change, 25: 183-205.
- Knudsen, DC, Jacobs, FR, Conway, D and MK Blake (1994) Flexible Manufacturing in the American Midwest, in C.F. Bonser (ed.), Dimensions of Change: Decline and Restructuring in the American Midwest. Bloomington: Institute for Development Strategies, Indiana University. Pp. 233-248.
- Knudsen, DC and MK Blake (1994) The Long Wave Theory of Economic Development and the American Midwest, 1947-86, in C.F. Bonser (ed.), Dimensions of Change: Decline and Restructuring in the American Midwest. Bloomington: Institute for Development Strategies, Indiana University. Pp. 29-50.
- Blake, MK (2017) Feeding Affordances and Decent Helpings: Working together to Reduce Food Poverty and Improve public health. Final report from Decent Helpings: Developing a Context-sensitive Food-Poverty Toolbox for Local Authorities, Innovation, Impact and Knowledge Exchange (IIKE) Application for Collaborative R&D Award, £20,121
- Blake, MK (2009) Participatory Action Research Ethics Guidance Document, Sheffield, University of Sheffield.
- Mellor, JCL, MK Blake and L Crane (2008) “When I’m doing a dinner party I don’t go for the Tesco cheeses, it’s that sort of level, you know”: Class distinctions, friendship and home entertaining’ Proceedings of the 2nd Global Conference, Persons, Intimacy and Love: Probing the Boundaries, Salzburg, Austria.
- Blake, M; C Knowles; and L Ruddy (1994) The ‘Ave’ Market Study, Seattle: Office of Community Affairs, University of Washington and The Ave Planning Group.
- Blake, M and C. Knowles (1994) Health Care and Higher Education in Seattle, Seattle: Office of Community affairs, University of Washington, Seattle Area Hospital Council, Greater Seattle chamber of Commerce, and other Seattle Area Colleges and Universities.
- Blake, M and C Knowles (1994) Higher Education and Non-profit Research, Regional Economic Strategy White Paper, Seattle: Office of Community Affairs, University of Washington and the Puget Sound Regional Economic Council.
- Knudsen, DC; FR Jacobs; D Conway; and M Blake (1992) Flexible Manufacturing in the American Midwest: Survey Results, Bloomington: Ameritech Fellowship Program, Institute for Development Strategies, School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
- Knudson, DC; T Koh; X Lu; and M Blake (1991) A Competitive Analysis of Indiana Regions, Bloomington: Institute for Development Strategies, School of Public and Environmental Affairs and the Indiana Economic Development Council, Inc.
- Knudsen, DC; FR Jacobs; D Conway; M Blake; and JL Friedmeyer (1991) Flexible Manufacturing in the American Midwest, Bloomington: Ameritech Fellowship Program, Institute for Development Strategies, School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
- Knudsen, DC and M Blake (1990) The Long Wave Theory of Development and the American Midwest, 1947-86. Bloomington: Ameritech Fellowship Program, Institute for Development strategies, School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Professional Creative Writing and Reporting:
- Blake, MK. GeoFoodie, a research blog about social geographies and food spaces. Http://Geofoodie.org. (ongoing since March 2013).
- St. Clair, R. and M. Blake. Reflections on the 2019 Food Power Conference. Greater Manchester Poverty Action Newsletter, July 10. https://www.gmpovertyaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/July-10th-2019.pdf
- Blake, MK. 2019. Food Ladders. Greater Manchester Poverty Action Newsletter. 26 June. https://www.gmpovertyaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/June-26th-2019.pdf
- Blake, MK. 2019 Food Stalled. The Mint Magazine. Issue 10 https://www.themintmagazine.com/food-stalled
- Blake, MK. 2018 Rising income inequalities are linked to unhealthy diets and loneliness. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/rising-income-inequalities-are-linked-to-unhealthy-diets-and-loneliness-105068
- Blake, MK. 2018 Introductory remarks, Kellogg’s commissioned report, Can everyone access affordable, nutritious food? A picture of Britain’s deprived food deserts.
- Blake, MK. 2018 Enormous amounts of food are wasted during manufacturing—here’s where it occurs. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/enormous-amounts-of-food-are-wasted-during-manufacturing-heres-where-it-occurs-102310
- Blake, MK. 2018. Introductory remarks, Community Shop Annual Report. Community Shop, Goldthorp, UK.
- Blake, MK. 2018. Capitalism has coopted the language of food—costing the world millions of meals. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/capitalism-has-coopted-the-language-of-food-costing-the-world-millions-of-meals-90780
- Blake, MK. 2017 (28 June). ‘Surplus food’, what it is, how it is used and how can it help solve food poverty? GMPA monthly newsletter.
- Blake, MK. 2017(17 May). Why are we failing to feed our own people? GMPA monthly news letter.
- Blake, MK. 2015 (19 May). Why one of the wealthiest countries in the world is failing to feed its people. The Conversation (available online: http://theconversation.com/why-one-of-the-wealthiest-countries-in-the-world-is-failing-to-feed-its-people-41872) republished by The Independent as A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people, 25 May 2015. (50,282 readers).