Gastronomy explained – it’s much more than fancy dining

What do you think of when you hear the word gastronomy? Fancy food? Elite eating? That’s not what they mean at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. I’ve been going to visit the university in January for the past few years to give a seminar on the food system to the MSc in Gastronomy Students. In this short video Charlotte Maberly and Stan Blackley explain just what gastronomy is about:



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Taking #hunger as seriously as medals – why the UK needs a minister to tackle household #food insecurity

I wrote the following blog for the End Hunger UK campaign website.

What do you think is more important? Putting on a good show for the world and winning lots of medals in the London 2012 Olympics or ending hunger and household food insecurity in the UK by 2020? Obviously, they’re very different and I expect you to say the latter.

The point of the question, however, is that the government recognised it was a complex task to deliver an Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, and to deliver a result in which Britain did well. It was an ambitious project with ambitious goals to which the government was committed. It required bringing together a lot of different elements to make it succeed. And the government recognised that to do so they needed someone, a minister with sufficient clout, able to look across all of the different issues that needed to be connected together to ensure success along with significant investment.

Ending hunger and household food insecurity in the UK is a far more complex task. It also needs clear and ambitious goals plus commitment to reach them. It requires, as the evidence to the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which I chaired, shows, action across many different areas. As we noted in our interim report – A Recipe For Inequality: Why our food system is leaving low-income households behind – delivering affordable, accessible, nutritious, sustainable food for everyone will require fundamental change inside our food system and the wider economy.

hungryfro-change-pngWe recommended a whole range of actions in our final report – Hungry For Change – built around a set of principles, many of which are embodied in this End Hunger UK campaign. We need ambitious goals. These include not only an end to hunger but an end to household food insecurity which is far more widespread; that food banks and other forms of charitable food provision to stop people going hungry should become unnecessary by 2020; and that the link between low income and bad diet-related health outcomes should be broken – the equivalent of winning a lot of Olympic golds.

We recognised that this required action on many fronts: health, farming, working conditions and pay, social security, improving local access to food, protecting public health schemes, challenging the way food is marketed, especially to children, and taxation policies. This is why we recommended, amongst other things, that the government appoint a new minister with responsibility for eliminating household food insecurity.

Those affected need a coordinated approach to tackling hunger and household food insecurity across government. It requires a minister with sufficient clout to be able to bring together action by the many different government departments whose activities affect food and poverty. Not just government departments, though, but also devolved governments, local authorities, regulators, business, trade unions and civil society as well as those in poverty whose voices need to be heard in developing the policies to make the changes needed.

Strong government leadership is needed to ensure the Office for National Statistics measures the scale of the problem, and for ensuring the ambitious goals are reached. This is particularly important for two reasons.

First, the ability of people to acquire or consume an adequate quality and sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways is a key marker of a healthy and successful society. For any government committed to reducing inequality, how our food system functions to deliver good food for all is a key indicator of whether or not it is succeeding.

Secondly, as our country adjusts to a new role in the world in leaving the European Union, policies around food and farming are all up for grabs. There will be many changes potentially. These changes need to be in line with creating a food system that is sustainable, healthy, is fair in the way it treats people who grow and deliver food to our tables wherever they are, and that works better for people on low incomes.

As the many different government departments grapple with the challenges involved in Brexit, we need a minister focused on an outcome that is ambitious, that tests the measures and changes being negotiated and enacted against their ability to end hunger and food insecurity for people in the UK, and in a way that supports that goal for people everywhere. Press your MP now to create such a minister committed to deliver on ending hunger and food insecurity in the UK.

Please join the End Hunger UK campaign

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Helping #China’s smallholder #farmers: Science and Technology Backyards – a short video

Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to visit China a number of times – you can see my blogs from these trips here. On a couple of occasions I’ve visited some of China Agricultural University’s Science and Technology Backyards, which aim to help China’s small holder farmers make better use of their resources. I wrote up my most recent visit here.

A few weeks ago I was asked if I could put together a short video to go alongside a paper about their work in Nature. Here’s the video:

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Enlightened #Agriculture for a better future – an interview with Colin Tudge

For over 40 years, biologist and writer Colin Tudge has worked on agriculture and biodiversity. In this interview, he discussed what this has taught him about the kind of farming systems we need for a fair and sustainable future. He covers topics ranging from agro-ecology to genetic engineering, the role of science, the kind and numbers of farmers we need. He explains why we need an agrarian renaissance, how he co-founded the Oxford Real Farming Conference, the Campaign for Real Farming and the College For Real Farming and Food Culture.

He has published a wide range of books over the years many of which are shown below.



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#endhungeruk campaign launches big conversation – step up to the plate


Today saw the launch of a long-term campaign to end the scandal of hunger and food insecurity in the UK. Over a dozen organisations have come together to encourage a big conversation around ‘How can we end hunger in the UK – and what does the government need to do to help make that a reality’ for the first six months of the campaign. You can hear the launch event below:

As well as engaging with those facing hunger and food insecurity, there is also a wide range of reports and resources people can draw on to inform this conversation, from reports from local food banks to reports such as Feeding Britain and Hungry for Change, the report of the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, which I chaired. You can download resources, sign up for news and follow the campaign from their website:

When you organise a local conversation, one action called for is for each person to write their answer to the big question on a paper plate and post a picture of them holding it – or just the plate if they prefer – on social media using the hashtag #EndHungerUK. You could also send all your plates to your local MP and invite them to step up to the plate as well.

End Hunger UK is supported by many national organisations, including: Child Poverty Action Group; Church Action on Poverty; Fareshare; First Steps Nutrition; Food Ethics Council; Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty; The Food Foundation; Food Matters; Nourish Scotland; Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming; Trussell Trust; Independent Food Aid Network and Magic Breakfast.

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How the #commodities casino creates #hunger and unrest – an interview with Alan Bjerga

Earlier this summer a group of northern universities – the n8 – launched their agrifood strategy in Manchester. One of the speakers was Alan Bjerga, who writes about food and commodities for Bloomberg News. He is also author of the book Endless Appetites: How the Commodities Casino Creates Hunger and Unrest. I took the chance to have a short chat with him about how and why this happens, and what might be done about it.

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#Gender, the right to #food and future priorities – a interview with Hilal Elver, the UN’s 3rd Rapporteur on the Right to Food

I met up with Hilal Elver, the UN’s 3rd Rapporteur on the Right to Food just before she took part in the fifth of a series of seminars on Ecofeminism, Food and Social Justice of the Food Research Collaboration at City University in London in June.

In this interview, she talks about how she is approaching her work as Rapporteur on the Right to Food, and the big issues she sees. She discusses her first piece of work on women’s rights and gender issues in relation to the right to food. She also discusses the challenge of realising the right to food, the need for stronger enforcement mechanisms, urbanisation, nutrition and the sustainable development goals.

You can hear her contribution and see the presentation to the City University Seminar on their website here. You can download her report gender (A/HRC/31/51) to the Human Rights Council in 2015 here and her report on climate change (A/70/287) to the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly in August 2015 here.

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