Food and social resilience

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A University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) public lecture

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This lecture will set out the challenge now facing Brexit Britain over food security.

Food supply and food security have been assumed as part of EU culture and economic membership over half a century. Brexit throws much into the air. Already, old themes have re-emerged, such as assuming others will feed the UK; accepting remarkable power over food supply being held by a handful of companies; wanting food to be plentiful yet cheap; normalising a low waged food system; accepting a massive toll from diet-related ill-health; and eating as though there are multiple planets.

The UK has form in ducking the importance of food policy until there is a crisis. With a multi-whammy now upon us – Brexit, COVID-19, climate change, ecosystems stress, geo-political uncertainties, and economic disruption – this lecture urges more attention be given to food defence and social resilience. It is time to face home truths about food.

The lecture sets out to: (1) map current UK food security; (2) locate food as a social not just environmental problem; (3) highlight the human and societal dynamics with food systems; and (4) propose some radical but reasonable lines of policy development.

Speaker biographies

Tim Lang is Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London’s Centre for Food Policy. He was a hill farmer in Lancashire UK in the 1970s which formed his interest in food as linking health, environment, culture and political economy. This became his work from 1980 in academia, then in civil society from 1984, and since 1994 back in academia.

He was food advisor to the EU Environment Commissioner (1988), food commissioner on the UK Sustainable Development Commission (2006-11), a member of UK Council of Food Policy Advisors (2008-10) and the London Food Board advising the Mayor of London (2009-16; reappointed 2017).

He was policy lead on the EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems (Jan 2019) and was Expert on the European Economic & Social Council’s 2017 inquiry into a comprehensive EU Food Policy. His latest book is Feeding Britain (Pelican, March 2020) which explores UK food security.

Jo Lewis is Strategy and Policy Director at the Soil Association. She is also currently Chair of the Food Ethics Council and serves on a number of advisory boards and committees, including the National Healthcare Food Standards Panel and the Dynamic Food Procurement National Advisory Board (chair).

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