Dr Megan Blake

Senior Lecturer

image of megan

Email

M.Blake@Sheffield.ac.uk
Room number: E17
Telephone (internal): 27978
Telephone (UK): 0114 222 7978
Telephone (International): +44 114 222 7978

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Profile






Megan Blake is the Director of the MA in Food Security and Food Justice. Her research approach interrogates how social institutions, everyday practices and place produce the possibilities for and constraints on performance of food practices. 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. Dr. Blake has worked with international, as well as national and locally based organizations in the UK, Hong Kong, and Hungary.

In addition to her departmental roles, she is currently a member of The Greater Manchester Poverty Action—Food and Wellbeing group; Sheffield City Council Food Group; Doncaster Food Partnership Board, Healthy Weight Networking Group—Yorkshire. Public outreach is a key aspect of her work and she has written pieces for the Conversation and for the Independent. Recent work has also featured in Radio and Television media. She has been an invited keynote speaker in the UK and abroad for a wide range of audiences including academic, third-sector, and community-based groups. She is an active commentator, disseminator and curator of food related information on social media through twitter (@geofoodieorg) and via a research focused blog (geofoodie.org).

Since 2002, I have been an expert evaluator for the European Commission. I also provide peer review for national and international research councils including the UK ESRC, the US National Science Foundation, and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology.

From 2011-2013, I spent time away from Sheffield on special leave in Hong Kong. During this time I taught students at Hong Kong University. The students were assessed via web pages that they produced. You can learn more about my approach to teaching and find their pages here.

I was elected as councillor for the Economic Geography Research Group of the AAG from 2008 to 2010.

Post-Graduate Supervision

Megan has considerable experience supervising PhD students to completion. She is currently involved in the supervision of five students at various stages in their study. Enquiries from prospective PhD students interested in the research themes identified are always welcome.

University Administration and service

I am currently the Deputy Director of Teaching and Learning for the Department of Geography. Previously I have been the director of PGT courses for the department. I was also departmental library liaison, the international tutor (also responsible for Study Abroad and Erasmus exchanges), and Women’s tutor. I have been a member of University Senate and sat on the Female Academic Plan Steering Group.

More information can be found on my Linked In page.

Research







Research Interests:

  • Urban food systems and social practice (e.g., market practices, food justice, urban farming, food consumption)
  • Practices and circuits of value and valuing
  • Geographies of Everyday life
  • Innovation and Creativity

Current Research:

Megan is currently involved as a co-PI in three ongoing funded research projects:

  • ‘Fresh Street’ is an MRC funded research project aimed at developing an areas (street) based cash transfer scheme to promote healthy eating in areas of high deprivation. The research is in collaboration with public health researchers at Sheffield University and with the Alexandra Rose Charity, Sheffield Public Health and Barnsley Local Authority.
  • ‘Food to People’ is an N8 funded pump priming research grant aimed at understanding the vulnerabilities of older people in relation to food access. It is a collaboration with academics at Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Lancaster with Liverpool Food People, Voice North, William Jackson Food Group.
  • ‘Empowering Local Food Hubs in Deprived Areas: Enhancing knowledge exchange for developing best practice guidelines. This N8 funded research is collaborative research with colleagues in Newcastle, Sheffield, and Lancaster, and with Open Food Network, The Larder, Myatt’s Fields Park, and Workers Education Association. The aim of this research is to explore the role of food hubs for supporting access to food in deprived areas.

Further research submitted for funding focuses on the following:

  • ‘So you think you can cook? Unpacking the personal and political potential of cookery classes in Low-income communities”. This research in collaboration with Cracking Good Food and academics in Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield. The aim of the research is to investigate community cooking/eating as an approach for understanding and enhancing community embedded resilience, health and wellbeing, and environmentalism.

Teaching

Megan will be teaching on a range of undergraduate undergraduate and postgraduate courses including:

GEO112 Introducing Social and Cultural Geographies
GEO217 Environment, Society and Policy
GEO241 Social and Cultural Geographies
GEO264 Research Design in Human Geography
GEO265 Researching Human Geographies

All staff also engage in personal supervision and tutoring of individual students at all three undergraduate levels in the following modules:
GEO163 (Information & Communication Skills for Geographers)
GEO263 or GEO264 (Research Design in Human or Physical Geography)
GEO356 (Geographical Research Project)

Previous teaching at Sheffield has included material at undergraduate level concerning Economic Geography, Identities, Governance, Labour and employment, and Local Economic Development. At masters level I have contributed to generic skills training with regard to research presentation, and to departmental master’s degrees in the area of research methods, social institutions, labour markets, and practices of research dissemination.

Megan is one of Five Academic Leads responsible for developing and delivering Level 2 Achieve More for the university. This is an initiative aiming to develop student’s abilities to work critically in an interdisciplinary manner with confidence. More on Achieve More can be found on the website.

I have also taught courses in the areas of Urban Geography, Economic Geography, Philosophical Approaches to Geography, and Gendered Geographies at a Universities elsewhere , including Dartmouth College (USA), Clark University (USA), Indiana University (USA), and Hong Kong University (Hong Kong SAR).

Teaching experience:

My career supporting student learning, primarily in Geography but also Women’s Studies and in Interdisciplinary teaching teams, extends over 35 years and has taken place in three international contexts (US, UK, and Hong Kong). I began supporting student learning as a peer tutor and workshop leader as an undergraduate. I taught modules independently as a master student at Indiana University, as a PhD student at Clark University and as a Visiting Instructor at Dartmouth College. I joined the University of Sheffield as a visiting Lecturer in 2000 becoming a lecturer in 2001 upon completion of my Geography PhD (FHEQ Level 8). I was appointed to Senior Lecturer in 2010. Between January 2011 and August 2013 while in Hong Kong on special leave from Sheffield, I was a Visiting Professor in Geography at Hong Kong University, received a CertTESOL, and supported development of interdisciplinary teaching and research at Hong Kong Baptist University.

I have taught on more than 40 modules (30+ at Sheffield), the majority I have either developed independently or in collaboration with peers. These modules were/are delivered across all levels of academic study (undergraduate, taught post-graduate, and PhD candidates). In 2014, I established the MA in Food Security and Food Justice, which recruits students both from the UK and internationally. I continue to act as the director of this master’s course, which recruits students from across the world. I was one of five academic leads responsible for creating the first iteration of Achieve More Level 2 (2015-16) and I delivered material for AML1-State of Sheffield in 2015.

I have held a number of key department teaching and learning roles including: Departmental Interim Director of Learning and Teaching (2014), Departmental Deputy Director of Learning and Teaching (2013), Departmental Director of Internationalisation in teaching and research (2014-15), and Department Director of Taught Post-Graduate Programmes (2008-10, a role I established and developed). I am currently also developing a new role focusing on enhancing and monitoring the way we incorporate employability into our PGT programmes in the department.

My approach to teaching:

The core themes of the Sheffield University learning and teaching strategy have been embedded in my pedagogy for some time. Key to all my teaching and learning delivery is an aim to create inclusive learning environments, provide exposure to contexts and practitioners with the lived experience of the material students are learning, and inspire students to develop an ethos of critical engagement and perpetual curiosity. My involvement in a range of academic contexts and exposure to learners who come to university with disparate skills, knowledge and needs (e.g., dyslexia, gender, race/nationality, language and culture, family history of university attendance) has enhanced my approach to teaching delivery. This exposure has taught me, for example, the importance of peer mentoring for developing student confidence and how the contribution of practical demonstration, a safe space to ask questions and opportunities to learn from failure are for student learning. I incorporate field visits, work placements and visiting speakers who often are external partners with whom I conduct research (both internationally and within the UK), student-led independent inquiry and public facing output, and reflective practice in my teaching and programme development. Where relevant I utilise learning technologies to support these activities and the student learning from them. I make changes to programmes and teaching for which I am responsible when student feedback, my own, team, and external reflections suggest improvements would enhance the student experience. While much of my practitioner knowledge has come through self-learning, from experimentation and my own reflections on my successes and failures, I have consistently made efforts to enable my colleagues (at Sheffield and in my wider community) and the research postgraduate students I supervise and mentor to benefit from the lessons I have learned and innovations I have introduced.

Public Engagements

Megan actively develops public engagement activities as part of her research and teaching.

Public Engagements in 2015:

In May, Megan contributed to national debates through the publication of a commentary on the Conservative manifesto’s response to food poverty in the UK. The article, Why one of the wealthiest countries in the world is failing to feed its people, was initially published in The Conversation republished by The Independent as A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people, 25 May 2015 . (49,191 readers)

Megan spoke to a group of students outlining the ways the main political parties propose to address food poverty should they win the UK general election as part of a panel of academics. The panel was organised by the Geography Society to inform students about UK the general election in May, 2015.

Megan spoke to a group of Sheffield University alumni in Hong Kong about her research on Food Insecurity and Supermarketisation in Hong Kong. March, 2015.

In January, Megan organised the hosting of an expert hearing on the environmental aspects of UK Food and Poverty. This is part of an independent, non-partisan Commission on Food and Poverty organised by the Fabian Society and sponsored by the Esmé Fariburn Foundation. The in collaboration with the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, Research Exchange for the Social Sciences (RESS), the Department of Geography, and the Fabian Society, the hearing will give evidence and solicit comment from academic and industry experts and the public, which will then be fed into reports to be published by the Fabian’s in the spring (interim report) and Summer (final report) of 2015.

Research focused engagements in 2014 included:

  • Organising and running the Festival of Social Sciences Decent Helpings event, in collaboration with Research Exchange for the Social Sciences (RESS) and the South Yorkshire Local Authorities University Network (SYLAUN). More detail about the event can be found here. The event featured a range of speakers and a collaborative activity aimed at identifying a bottom up research agenda on aspects of food justice. More than 65 people attended the event.
  • Participating as a storyteller in the Tales from the Ivory Tower, University of Sheffield Festival of the Mind (The video is available on ITunesU under the title Barbequed Sparrow, Anyone? See the video here
  • In collaboration with the Third Sector Café facilitated an event focusing on Food for third sector and small businesses in Sheffield. For more on this event see here.

Teaching related public engagements in 2014

In collaboration with the Sheffield University Libraries, Megan helped develop and introduce the Mapping Sheffield exhibit, which involved also a number of first year students who analysed historical data and developed one of the displays. See more on the exhibit here.

From 2011-2013, while on special leave from the University of Sheffield, Megan spent time at the University of Hong Kong and at Hong Kong Baptist University. While there she developed and received funding (approx. £350,000) for the Da Tong (打通) Project. The primary aim of the Da Tong Project is to support culture change at HKBU, so as to enable interdisciplinary activity to flourish. The project is based on the principle that research and public engagement that is interdisciplinary first involves learning how to integrate knowledges and modes of thinking from multiple disciplines. To achieve this learning the project brings together in active engagement for a limited time (2 years), scholars, industry, and third sector organisations who are interested in a broad topic, but approach that topic from a range of perspectives. The initial collaborative topics funded through the Da Tong proposal are Food and Environment.

Publications

View full list of publications