UWE takes part in European food chain project in Bristol

Issue date: 05 April 2013

Research into good practice in food production and consumption is being carried out in Bristol and the surrounding area as part of a major European Commission food project, SUPURB Food.

The project will look at seven urban case-study regions across Europe – Bristol, Rome, Riga, Rotterdam, Vigo, Zurich and Ghent. The Bristol city-region includes Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol City, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset (formerly the county of Avon).

The research into the Bristol region will be carried out by the Countryside and Community Research Institute (CCRI), a collaboration between UWE Bristol, the University of Gloucestershire, Hartpury College and the Royal Agricultural College.

Food security is a hot topic, and public concerns were heightened recently when rogue horsemeat found its way into various food products. This controversy has raised concerns about the scale and manageability of complex international food chains.

Shorter food chains are said to improve food security, increasing levels of control and transparency in areas such as bio-security and traceability. Until now however, the social and environmental benefits of shorter chains have been considered in the context of rural development rather than in an urban environment.

SUPURB Food will explore good practice in the development of food production and consumption within city regions. It will investigate how short food chains make a contribution to local food needs, and what this means in terms of food waste, land and water use, as well as soil nutrient levels in the food production areas adjacent to cities.

Professor Nigel Curry, co-Director of the CCRI, said, “Across the EU, cities are becoming increasingly important arenas within which the multiple concerns of food and land use are played out. On the one hand, local and regional devolution has created new opportunities and responsibilities in relation to public health, planning and resource use. On the other hand, issues such as food price rises, climate change and pressures on agricultural land mean that the resilience of the food system is a question of deep concern much closer to home.”

During the project the CCRI will look at examples of best practice, particularly where people have managed to integrate community and environmental benefits, with the aim of putting them in a common pool to be shared across the cases studies, and eventually to a wider audience.

Professor Curry continued, “Short food chain practitioners - especially community activists and food businesses - from each of the city-regions have joined the project research teams, so that they can talk directly to each other about the practical consequences associated with re-localising their food systems.”

The CCRI team will be interviewing experts, public officials, food business managers and community activists in the Bristol city-region over the forthcoming months. People involved with food supply chains, food waste management, land use or farming who would like to be involved with the project can contact project leader Dr Matt Reed.

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