Fix Our Food

Principal Investigators: Professor Bob Doherty and Professor Katherine Denby, University of York
Project website: FixOurFood
Overview: FixOurFood video

FixOurFood Programme video November 2021

We have a vision for a Yorkshire food system constituting regenerative and equitable healthy eating for young children, supported by regenerative hybrid food economies and regenerative farming.

This project will look at interventions in food retailing and farming to address issues such as childhood obesity, sustainability in agriculture and global warming.

Our vision is a transformation of food systems (FS) across the UK towards being ‘regenerative’. Our current FS are responsible for major social and environmental impacts, such as poor diets, ill health and major environmental degradation, threatening the long-term wellbeing of people and the planet.

Because many aspects of ecological and human health have already passed critical thresholds, we need new regenerative approaches that go beyond just reducing harm to sustainable levels. Instead, we should develop FS that ‘spiral up’ social, economic and environmental benefits for all. This research therefore aims to answer two main questions:

  1. What do regenerative systems look like?
  2. How can transformations be enabled so we can get to regenerative FS?

To answer these questions, we will work with diverse stakeholders to change the Yorkshire food system and use the learning to inform change efforts in other parts of the UK and beyond.

Our work will focus on shifting trajectories towards regenerative dynamics in three inter-related systems of:

  • healthy eating for young children
  • hybrid food economies
  • farming

This will enable us to consider not just the food chain (farming to fork) but also its outcomes and how they interact with social, economic and environmental drivers. These outcomes include food security (availability, access and utilisation of food), quality, safety and social welfare.

We will use novel approaches that combine different processes of data collection and ‘learning by doing’ from applying different interventions, while also creatively developing solutions and new ways of thinking about FS. The work will also use innovative thinking that will focus on stimulating transformational kinds of change. This will be delivered using a ‘co-creation’ approach, with researchers and other professionals working together to bring about change.

Our research has already been developed with a range of FS stakeholders from farming, industry, civil society and national and regional government. This process has resulted in a new anchor institutions platform and a ‘Leaders for Change’ group of young people, both of which will help drive system change.

Our work will have six main outcomes for Yorkshire and beyond:

  • new visions of regenerative FS
  • new policies and governance mechanisms (such as the Food Systems Council for Yorkshire) to ensure impact well beyond the programme
  • new metrics and platform to help guide and drive transformation (for example, new data for National Food School monitoring and an open source codebase with quantitative systems models to co-create a new metrics dashboard for FS transformation)
  • new narratives for different stakeholders to support cultural change
  • bringing together different stakeholders, information and new ways of thinking to ensure long-term transformational intent
  • scalable innovative interventions.

The scalable innovative solutions will include:

  • new models of food procurement and environmentally sustainable menus for schools and early years settings
  • educational resources/activities linking healthy diet and climate change such as remote/interactive farming platform for schools
  • hybrid business models like food hubs, community urban vertical farms
  • a UK-wide model to predict impacts of scaling regenerative farming
  • linking regenerative farming produce to schools
  • anchor institutions procurement.

Overall, our cutting-edge science that uses co-creation and action-oriented methods will actively shift trajectories towards new kinds of regenerative FS in Yorkshire. It will also produce cutting-edge science about how to achieve transformation of FS towards the new concepts of regenerative futures. Through the influential researchers and partners involved, this learning will also be actively fed into UK policy and international endeavours, ensuring the programme has wide-reaching and long-lasting impact.