What do we do?

Communications

We send out weekly newsletters summarising new research and activities. Our research library is freely accessible  and contains summaries and links to over 3,500 reports, journal articles and resources. We provide a networking facility for 1,400 network members who can search for and make contact with other members. Our members can – and do - ask questions of one another via our Forum pages, or post comments on reports and articles, stimulating debate. Finally, through our interview and blog activities we highlight the work of our members and demonstrate the diverse ways in which institutions and individuals are addressing the food sustainability challenge. 

Stakeholder engagement and dialogue

We organise workshops, sometimes in partnership with others, on topical or contested issues. These bring together academic, NGO and business stakeholders who may approach the issues from very different perspectives. These workshops often lead to collaborative follow-on work.  Examples include our workshops on sustainable intensification, on food consumption and production in China, and on sustainable healthy eating patterns.

Research

We produce influential reports and briefings of our own; our recent reports convey some of our current priorities:

  • Healthy and sustainable eating patterns In April 2014 the FCRN convened a workshop on the subject of ‘Changing what we eat’, funded and hosted by the Wellcome Trust with additional support from the UK’s multi-agency Global Food Security Programme.  A wide range of expert stakeholders participated, representing all sectors and specialisms relating to food systems, including the Food and Drink Federation, Mars, WWF, Eating Better Alliance, DEFRA and World Cancer Research Fund International as well as leading academics.  The subsequent workshop report sets out a wide-ranging research agenda for carrying this work forward.  The workshop presentations are available here.  Additionally, as input to the workshop, Tara Garnett produced two discussion papers.  The first: ‘What is a Healthy and Sustainable Diet?’ now the FCRN’s most downloaded publication while the second, 'Changing to healthier & more sustainable diets: how can this be achieved?' looks at different disciplinary approaches to the question of how changes in food practice should be understood and achieved.
  • Sustainable intensification in agriculture. In collaboration with the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food the FCRN has organised two workshops that brought together a diverse range of expertise to consider what sustainable intensification is and how it sits within, and needs to interface with, a wide range of social, ethical, environmental and developmental goals we might have for the food system  The first, held in January 2012 explored the attitudes of different stakeholders to sustainable intensification as a concept, and considered how SI should engage with concerns spanning human nutrition, animal welfare, biodiversity and broader issues of demand management, waste and governance. Outputs included a report and a paper in the journal Science.  A second workshop in February 2014 focused more specifically on farmers in low income countries.  Its focus was: how can sustainable intensification strategies and practices be implemented in ways that a. support livelihoods and enhance development outcomes for low income producers in developing countries; and b. increase the local availability, accessibility and affordability of food for urban and rural consumers in these regions? (February 4-5 2014).
  • New Global Powers In early 2014 the FCRN published Appetite for Change a major 180 page report which investigates the implications of China’s food system transformation in the last 30 years. What are the forces influencing food production and consumption? What health, environmental, economic and socio-cultural trends are emerging and how do they intersect? What are the priorities for coming years?  The growth in livestock production and consumption is a central theme in the report. We are also exploring scope for a. follow-on work with Chinese collaborators and b. applying our mapping approach to another transition economy, such as India.
  • Understanding the food system and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Our Cooking up a Storm report was perhaps the first attempt in the UK to provide a description of how the food system contributes to climate changing greenhouse gas emissions, both by life cycle stage (from plough to plate to bin) and by food type. It also explored the flip side of the coin: the global impact of a changing climate on how we grow, distribute, produce and consume food. The report underlined the need to address the question of what we eat as much as how we produce food, and provided an initial ‘back of the envelope’ estimate of the potential emission reductions achievable, through a combination of production and consumption side changes.  This report was itself based on comprehensive analyses of GHG emissions from three food commodities produced and consumed in the UK: livestock, fruit and vegetables, alcoholic drinks; and one supply chain process: food refrigeration.
  • The Cooking up a Storm report provided the impetus for a subsequent collaboration between WWF and FCRN, leading to a jointly commissioned report produced by a team at Cranfield University and entitled How low can we go? This not only provides a more detailed quantification of the UK’s food food carbon footprint but also takes account of emissions from land use change, finding that the overall figure increases by about 50%. It also explores a range of scenarios for achieving a 70% cut in food related greenhouse gas emissions and finds that both technological and behavioural changes are needed.
  • Topical issues: a series of discussion papers. The FCRN produces discussion papers that summarise the current ‘state of play’ on topical issues.  Topics covered include soil carbon sequestration the feeding of grains to livestock and the relative impacts of intensively versus extensively reared livestock and the relationship between animal efficiencies and animal welfare.