Written by: Miranda Burke.
The global food security programme, if you haven’t heard of it, is a UK cross-government programme on food security research. They use interdisciplinary and whole system research to make fundamental impact across the food system for sustainability and food security. The programme and their team run several events throughout the year for early career researchers. I attended their policy lab in April this year. It is a competition application that involves answering questions related to your research, experience and how that fits in with the wider context of the food system.
The successful applicants then attend a workshop over the course of 3 days. Normally this is held in person however this year they moved the event online, which despite being their first year doing so, worked extremely well. The 3 days were jam-packed with fascinating talks from a wide variety of stakeholders within the food system. This included Professor Carol Wagstaff from Reading University speaking about horticultural food quality, Dr Christian Reynolds from the Centre for Food Policy, Jack Miller from the Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology, Helen White from Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and many more. The talks were diverse and coming from different places in the food system.
In addition to the talks, we participated in some interesting thought activities. The first involved thinking of a non-realistic idea of how to fix food-security- basically science fiction! My idea was a pill that makes all the food you don’t like; taste like the food you do. This would solve poor nutrition and reduce the waste of things like vegetables that children often won’t eat. Obviously, this is a very far fetched idea, which was the point. Then we grouped up to represent different stakeholders in the food system: innovators- the idea creators, then government, consumers, and retailers. Each group had to think how this innovation would affect them and the pros and cons. It was a very interesting thought experiment which allowed you to put yourself in the minds eye of the stakeholders.
There were several other activities that we participated in, all working towards thinking of an idea for a potential report idea surrounding reducing food loss and waste in the food system. By the end of the workshop we put our ideas into the group and discussed these, then split into teams based on the ideas we liked the most. The teams then worked together to formulate a more focussed idea and write a proposal for the report.
The workshop was fast-paced and full of interesting, invaluable, and engaging content about the inner workings of the food system and policy making. The talks were very diverse and gave a range of perspectives. The team were fantastic. They were approachable, enthusiastic, and incredibly helpful. Dr Riaz Bhunnoo, the director of the GFS programme was also very engaged with the workshop which was a great touch as it made the programme accessible. The final cherry on top of the cake was the winning proposal team get to write the report, publish, and present for government and this year, COP26!
As an early career researcher, if you are interested in food security and policy making, I highly recommend applying for this workshop or the other workshops they run throughout the year. It was and incredibly rewarding experience and fantastic for the CV!
To check out their programme and read some of their reports:
Global Food Security programme: https://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk