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Engaging with ‘less affluent’ communities for food system transformation: a community food researcher model (FoodSEqual project)

Pettinger, C., Hunt, L., Gardiner, H., Garg, P., Howard, L. and Wagstaff, C. ORCID: (2023) Engaging with ‘less affluent’ communities for food system transformation: a community food researcher model (FoodSEqual project). Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. ISSN 1475-2719

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1017/S0029665123004913


The UK food system is distorted by inequalities in access, failing the people most in need, yet it should provide access to safe, nutritious affordable food for all citizens. Dietary patterns are associated with socio-demographic characteristics, with high levels of diet-related disease mortality attributed to poor dietary habits. Disadvantaged UK communities face urgent public health challenges, yet are often treated as powerless recipients of dietary and health initiatives. The need for food system transformation has been illustrated within recent UK government policy drivers and research funding. The Food Systems Equality project is a research consortium that aims to ‘co-produce healthy and sustainable food systems for disadvantaged communities’. The project focusses on innovating food products, supply chains and policies, placing communities at the centre of the change. Tackling the above issues requires new ways of working. Creative approaches in food research are known to empower a wider range of individuals to share their ‘lived food experience’ narratives, building relationships and corroborating co-production philosophies, thus promoting social justice, and challenging more traditional positivist/reductionist ‘biomedical’ approaches for nutrition and food studies. This review paper critiques the use of community-centric approaches for food system transformation, focusing on one, a community food researcher model(1) as an exemplar, to highlight their utility in advocating with rather than for less affluent communities. The potential for creative methods to lead to more equitable and lasting solutions for food system transformation is appraised, consolidating the need for community-driven systemic change to foster more progressive and inclusive approaches to strengthen social capital. The paper closes with practice insights and critical considerations offering recommendations for readers, researchers, and practitioners, enabling them to better understand and apply similar approaches.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Interdisciplinary Research Centres (IDRCs) > Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH)
Life Sciences > School of Chemistry, Food and Pharmacy > Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences > Human Nutrition Research Group
ID Code:114100
Publisher:Cambridge University Press


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