Your University magazine 2022-23

Page 23

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities which exist in societies across the world. Food insecurity is no exception. Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography and beyond are addressing this issue across the supply chain, with the ultimate aim of transforming the way we think about food and the environment.

Our journey to food security

ILLUSTRATION: JAKE WILLIAMS

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oderate or severe food insecurity affects more than 30% of the world population, a figure that has been on the rise for the last six years. A common misconception is that the issue exists almost solely in the Global South, but shocking data from charities like the Trussell Trust shows 700,000 UK households required the use of food banks before the pandemic. Three-quarters of those people were classed as being severely food insecure. Researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Geography are taking a multidisciplinary approach to tackling the issues across each part of the supply chain. This ‘farm to fork’ approach is being led by groups like the Institute for Sustainable Food, one of the University’s four research flagships, alongside community groups both here in South Yorkshire and further afield. Professor Peter Jackson is co-director for the Institute for Sustainable Food where colleagues across departments, from ecologists and soil scientists to economists to behavioural psychologists, are working collaboratively. “Most people working on food tend to focus on one area and the Institute tries to bring all of those areas together by taking a food systems approach,” Professor Jackson explained. “If you tweak one part of the system, you can have a perverse effect on another. Even if you’re doing quite specialised

research, having the broader picture enables you to put your research into a wider context and have more purchase in terms of interventions.”

Starting at the beginning

With just under half of all food wastage coming from production, researchers are looking at ways of making farming more efficient, through trialling the use of practices like hydroponic and regenerative farming. This is an issue particularly facing less economically developed countries due to a lack of transport and storage infrastructure in some regions. But the likes of Professor Bhavani Shankar of the University’s Department of Geography are also looking at ways farming can adapt to the inevitable effects that climate change has had – and will continue to have – on the industry.

Researchers are looking at ways of making farming more efficient, through trialling the use of practices like hydroponic and regenerative farming.” 2022/2023 | YOUR UNIVERSITY 23