The theme of 'Food sovereignty' focuses attention on how ideas and practices of history, power, and justice are integral to food production and cultures of food consumption.

The Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit crisis have revealed a number of structural vulnerabilities in the UK food system and exposed the scale of food poverty in the UK today. The number of people dependent on the charitable donations of food banks has increased exponentially and Trussell Trust food banks alone distributed 1.2 million food parcels between April and September in 2020, but many thousands were already food bank dependent before the Covid crisis. The endemic level of food bank dependence in the UK can be understood as a ‘food sovereignty’ crisis.

Food sovereignty as a form of local struggle began in the late 90s from the Via Campesina farmer’s alliance in Belgium, and was subsequently developed into a global movement which asks for “the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods” (Declaration of Nyéléni, 2007). Unlike food security which has been criticised as overly reliant on a highly industrialised, corporate global food industry, food sovereignty focuses on people’s movements and shifts attention to how ideas and practices of history, power, and justice are integral to food production and cultures of food consumption.

We believe that a policy-based or a scientific approach to the current food crisis must also take into active consideration the concerns of those diverse communities involved in the production of food, including farmers and the hospitality sector, and explicitly engage with vulnerable constituencies such as working class and BAME communities, whose access to food has been undermined and prejudiced in approaches that treat food security as a technical domain. An interdisciplinary humanities and legal approach to food and justice issues is key here. It is also important to recognise how food, water or resource crisis as well as their supply and dearth is linked with historical factors such as the extraction and distribution of raw materials under colonialism and global capitalism, and has only accelerated under the last decades of neo-liberal austerity in Britain.

Unfortunately, the media often focuses its attention on high profile advocates against child hunger in the UK such as the footballer Marcus Rashford, but the crisis necessitates deep and sustained interdisciplinary analysis. The food sovereignty research group is formed to work with practitioners and activists to deepen understanding of the long-term causes of food poverty and the possible futures of food sovereignty. The urgency of food sovereignty affects us all. The daily demands of production and distribution of food, the terrible conditions of hunger and reliance on food banks both in Britain and globally, and the plural cultures of the sharing and consumption of food make it a great time to approach this topic which also clearly connect the global and the local.

Staff with Food Sovereignty

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