Getting the facts straight about #foodinsecurity

I just wrote this blog for the #EndHungerUK campaign, prior to its national conference on 17th  October in London

In September 2015, the British Government committed itself to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition. It was then that the UK, along with most other governments, signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations. These goals apply to all countries, including the UK. The second of these goals is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”. The first commitment under this goal is:

“By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.”

As the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) argues, there is something relevant to meeting the end hunger goal in virtually every other goal of the 2030 Agenda – the first one being to end absolute poverty, others cover clean water and sanitation, climate action, reducing inequality, peace and justice.

SDG's-GraphicNow while most focus goes, quite rightly, on the urgent need to tackle these challenges in the poorest countries, these goals also apply to the UK. The End Hunger UK campaign is one contribution to tackling hunger and poverty here. As one of the world’s richest countries we should be far more ambitious about ending hunger here well before 2030 – whilst at the same time supporting programmes, governments, businesses and civil society organisations to do the same elsewhere around the world.


Last month FAO, along with 4 other UN agencies, published the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017 – and it is well worth reading. Shockingly, the latest figures available show that from 2015-2016 the numbers of those going hungry in the world went up by 38 million to 815 million people.

One of the measures they use in the report is the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which showed that nearly one in 10 people in the world suffer from food insecurity. This is based on interview data from adults around the world to measure people’s access to food. It relies on direct yes/no responses to eight questions about access to adequate food. “Respondents are asked about experiences associated with the inability to access food, including whether they have at any time during the previous 12 months, due to lack of money or other resources: been worried about not being able to obtain enough food; been forced to decrease the quality or quantity of the food they eat; gone for entire days without eating,” says the report


The report notes that “The ideal source of FIES data is large population surveys conducted by national institutions, enabling more detailed, policy-relevant analyses of the food-insecurity situation by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, or other policy-relevant characteristics.” Unfortunately, few countries, including the UK, collect such data in national surveys. Yet we need to know it, if we are to be able to say we are meeting the goal of ending hunger.

This is why one of the panels, which I am chairing, at the EndHunger UK national conference on October 17th will be on ‘Measuring the scale of the problem’. The three speakers – Rachel Loopstra (UCL), Anna Taylor (The Food Foundation) and
Elli Kontoravddis (Nourish Scotland) – are working on this, and how knowing the level of food insecurity helps both reach our goal in EndHunger UK, hold government to account, and support the Right to Food. Do join us.


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Find, #eat and share the world edible #plants – an interview with Joseph Simcox, the Botanical Explorer

Earlier this week I had a visit from Joseph Simcox, the self-styled Botanical explorer. A dynamo of a man, he’s travelled the world to over 100 countries to find, eat and share as many of the huge range of edible plants people have eaten. In this interview, he talks about that, why we now only eat so few of them and explains what drives him to share these resources and expand our range of food plants in the face of climate change.

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#Inequality and why it matters – an interview with Richard Wilkinson, co-author of ‘The Spirit Level- Why #Equality is Better for Everyone’

Earlier this year the authors of a widely read book that examined why equality is better for everyone gave a lecture locally. I had a chance to interview one of the authors, Prof Richard Wilkinson, Professor Emeritus of Social Epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, about their work. In this he explains what they did, what they found, why it matters and why mass movements are needed to challenge growing levels of inequality.

You can see more about their work and the follow-up on The Equality Trust website.

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An #agroecologist gives a tour of the James Hutton Institute, Dundee

In January this year I gave a talk at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee called ‘Food, thriving people and paradigm shifts in the 21st century: goodbye homo sapiens, hello?’. It developed a talk of mine on the Food Systems Academy which you can view here. While I was at the Institute, Pete Iannetta, an agroecologist working there who had arranged my visit, gave me a quick tour around some of the site and talked about some of his work, including that on growing hops and faba beans in Scotland as well as making beer from all Scottish produce.


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Culture: a short history of the world in a fresh loaf of #sourdough – an interview with Eric Pallant

Eric Pallant is passionate about sourdough bread. Bread is central to western culture and until the last 200 years it was sourdough bread that we ate. A professor of environmental Science at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania USA, he’s spending 6 months at Lancaster University on a Fulbright scholarship as part of his research for a book ‘Culture: a short history of the world in a fresh loaf of sourdough’.

I met up with him in Lancaster to find out more about his work. Listen here:

If you would like to listen to or download the transcript from a lecture he gave on ‘The rise and fall of sourdough: 6000 years of bread’ you can do so here. You can download the Syllabus for his Soil to Plate course here and read about the Real Bread Campaign here.

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Science for #food and #environment – Royal Society conference on Science for Defra (#sci4defra)

Last week I spent a day in London at the Royal Society conference Science for Defra (Department of environment, food and rural affairs in the UK), where I helped facilitate one of the tables in the food and farming workshop. I tweeted quite a lot from the day I was there ( see @GeoffTansey and #sci4defra) but was unable to be at the second day that focussed on the natural environment. Here’s the programme:


Upstairs there were 41 posters outlining some of the research being done – from oak die back to animal health, food fraud to biomonitoring, climate change and dietary change. Have a scan through them below and see if any are of interest.



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Food ethics in Turkey and a 1200 years old olive tree

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I went to Turkey in early March to present a paper at the first Turkish Agricultural and Food Ethics Congress held at Ankara’s University’s Agriculture Faculty. I shared my experience of the Food Ethics Council and how our thinking about ethics has developed – see links at bottom of this post to download my paper and a pdf of my talk.

The Congress was the culmination of a two year EU funded project to develop Agricultural and Food Ethics thinking in Turkey, which I blogged about last year – see here. Over 200 people from all over Turkey attended as well as speakers from the USA, Norway, the Netherlands and the UK. There were a wide ranging set of papers and posters presented at the meeting – see below for the programme in English. Yet again I found myself doing an interview in Turkish on live television during the congress about our work.

The organisers have also carried out training courses in seven cities around the country as part of the project with over 160 participants as well as establishing a food ethics association. This, they hope, will grow and develop after the project and become a useful contributor to how food and farming develops in Turkey. We in the Food Ethics Council will be reviewing the documentation they have gathered and see if we can supply them with additional material for their library.

After the Congress I went to the Aegean and met up with one of the speakers, Prof Uygun Aksoy, whom I’ve known since I worked at the Aegean University in the late 1970s. While we were out we passed some wonderfully gnarled old – and I mean very old, around 1200 years – olive trees and I took a short video of her talking about them. Do have a look.

My paper: TARGETCongress-FEC-GTPaper

Powerpoint: FEC-TARGETconf-10-11March17ppt

Programme: 1st_Turkish_Congress_on_Agricultural_and_Food_Ethics_PROGRAMME

See also my earlier blog on this project:

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