Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN food sustainability newsletter

The FCRN’s weekly newsletter on food sustainability, Fodder, rounds up the latest journal papers, reports, books, jobs, events and more. Sign up to receive it here.

Network updates

From the FCRN: 21 November 2019

In Fodder this week

The EAT-Lancet diet, proposed on the grounds of health and sustainability, is too expensive for at least 1.6 billion people; a commentary piece argues that there are sound reasons for building soil carbon, for example to restore soil fertility, which have been obscured by controversies over whether building soil carbon can mitigate climate change; the Food Research Collaboration offers guidance to operators of food hubs; and End Hunger UK sets out seven reasons to tackle food insecurity in the UK

Featured FCRN publication

This 2014 FCRN discussion paper considers the question: ‘What is a sustainable healthy diet?’ The paper begins by highlighting the rationale for focusing on the diets question, and then moves on to discuss definitions of ‘good nutrition’ on the one hand, and ‘sustainability’ on the other. The main substance of the paper is organised according to the major food groups that constitute the UK’s Eatwell plate, and it examines the health and sustainability issues that their consumption raises, before drawing some conclusions. A review of studies in this area is also included. An important limitation of the paper is that it focuses largely on developed country contexts.

Read the full paper, What is a sustainable healthy diet? A discussion paper, here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource chapter What is a healthy sustainable eating pattern? and Tara Garnett’s paper Plating up solutions.

Research library

Image: Stian Broch, Barley-otto 0970, EAT-Lancet media kit

According to this study, the diet recommended by the EAT-Lancet commission on grounds of health and sustainability is too expensive for around 1.6 billion people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia. The study is based on food prices and household incomes in 159 countries. 

Image: Rebecca Kahn, Broad Bean Seedlings, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

This commentary argues that there is scientific consensus on the need to build soil organic carbon because of benefits such as resistance to soil erosion, higher fertility and resilience to drought. The authors note that these benefits of building soil carbon are being obscured by high-profile disagreements on the separate question of whether or not building soil carbon may help to mitigate climate change.

Image: Meena Kadri, Harvesting wheat #2, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

This paper presents a study of wheat farmers in India. Low-cost data from small satellites helped to map the results of spreading fertiliser either by hand or with a new spreader device that allowed more even application of fertiliser. 

This report from UK NGO Sustain is a guide for both local and national policymakers. It argues that controlling hot food takeaway outlets (e.g. fish and chip shops, kebab shops, burger bars) through planning laws, e.g. by limiting the number of outlets near schools, can help to promote public health. 

This guidance note from the UK’s Food Research Collaboration sets out how “food hubs” - organisations that connect food growers directly to customers - can help to revitalise local economies. It is aimed at food entrepreneurs, funders, not-for-profit workers and policymakers. 

This report, commissioned by the Wildlife Trusts (a group of UK charities), summarises existing evidence on declines in insects, many types of which have substantially decreased in abundance since 1970 (see for example Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers). It also explores the drivers of these declines and calls for an urgent halt to “all routine and unnecessary use of pesticides”.

This report from charitable coalition End Hunger UK sets out the arguments for addressing the root causes of hunger in the UK from seven perspectives: morality, child welfare, health, secure income, human rights, politics and public opinion.

Will Nicholson of the FCRN has contributed to this report on the future of protein by Forum for the Future. The report asks whether the food industry is taking sufficient action on providing sustainable, healthy protein.

This book, edited by Mark Lawrence and Sharon Friel, sets out ideas on health, sustainability and equity in food systems, discusses the current state of the food system and suggests how policymakers and practitioners can create healthy and sustainable food systems.

This book looks at how the food industry and the environment interact, describes how the industry has developed over the past decade, and sets out suggestions to improve the food industry’s future environmental performance.

Image: Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience

The UK’s Countryfile TV programme has featured research by the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) at Coventry University, which is using farm-based trials to study whether feeding biochar (a form of charcoal) to cattle can reduce their emissions of methane and ammonia.


This online course, developed by EIT Food, will consider the biological, neuroscientific and social aspects of so-called “superfoods”. Topics covered by the course are:

  • What is a superfood?
  • Are superfoods different from functional foods and nutraceuticals?
  • How can we critically evaluate superfoods and their role in our diet?
  • Are there dangers connected to superfoods intake?
  • Can superfoods have a role in special diets?

Read more here. The course will be available from 25 November 2019. You can access the course for six weeks for free, or you can pay £42 for unlimited access and a certificate of achievement.

The Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA) research initiative at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is hiring a research fellow. The role will involve leading research, publishing work in peer-reviewed journals and applying for funding.

Candidates should have a postgraduate degree in nutrition, agriculture, environmental science, economics, data science, mathematics or another relevant field, as well as experience in using large datasets.

Read more here. The deadline is 2 December 2019.

Applications are open for IMMANA (Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions) Competitive Research Grants, which aim to accelerate the development of innovative and interdisciplinary methods, metrics and tools to advance the scientific understanding of the linkages between agriculture and food systems and health and nutrition outcomes.

The grants will focus on work that can be applied in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), but researchers from any country are eligible to apply.

Read more here. The deadline to submit a concept memo is 15 December 2019.

IMMANA (Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions) is offering career development fellowships for emerging leaders in agriculture, nutrition, and health research.

Eligible candidates should have completed a doctoral degree in any field related to agriculture, nutrition or health research and practice. Fellows will conduct research in Africa or Asia under the joint supervision of two mentors - one from the applicant’s current or previous employer or academic institution, and one from a host institution where the applicant proposes to advance their work.

Read more here. Applications are accepted until 31 December 2019.

Organisations are invited to create a vision of the regenerative and nourishing food system that they aspire to create by the year 2050. Prizes of up to $200,000 for each winner are available, and winners will be able to take part in an accelerator to refine their visions and put them into practice.

Read more here. The early submission deadline is 5 December 2019 and the last day to apply is 31 January 2020.


At this talk run by Leeds Business School on 3 December 2019, Ian Schofield, who has worked on plastic reduction plans at the supermarket Iceland, will discuss how sustainability considerations can influence the design of food packaging.

Read more here.

The second conference of Oxford’s Livestock, Environment and People (LEAP) project will bring together researchers working on multiple aspects of meat and dairy production and consumption to consider its effects on population health, the economy, society and the environment. 

The aim of the conference is to provide a forum for the presentation of recent multidisciplinary research and build a community of researchers in this field to share evidence and tools to inform action.

Read more here. The conference is on 10 December 2019. Book a ticket here by 29 November 2019.

At this event on 12 December 2019, run by Forward Fooding and Thought For Food, there will be talks from founders of startups in the food and foodtech sectors as well as networking opportunities.

Read more here