Report on Food Poverty Symposium

A RIGHT TO FOOD

Food insecurity: Taking action and transforming urban food policy
Symposium on 18 April 2024
Marlowe Building, University of Kent
Report by Dr Mehri Holliday

The symposium was promoted by the School of Architecture, Design and Planning and the Centre for the Sustainable Built Environment at the University of Kent. It brought together third sector, local government and academic speakers to share ideas and best practices in ‘Right to Food’ and food policy initiatives as well as work being done across the channel with the ‘3i University Network’ cross-channel partner cities of Lille, Ghent, and Kent Universities.

The symposium explored the barriers, tensions, relationships and achievements in acting through three themes: food poverty, urban food policies, and spatial aspects related to it.

Our district institutions such as Canterbury Food Bank and All Saints Church were represented and spoke about their frontline activities and community engagement. Several academics from the ‘3i University cross-channel’ group gave illustrated papers with statistics. The following is a summary of Professor Simona de Lulio’s paper, from the University of Lille.

Professor de Lulio’s research paper entitled ‘From Media Coverage to Public Concern’ gave the audience a sense of food vulnerability and a range of its consequences among the student body at Lille University. She highlighted the startling findings of her research, stating that 44% of the students fall into ‘food vulnerable’ category, and that her research findings further showed this to be due to financial constraints, sometimes acute, and the unsuitable food range available on campus. Both were manifested in the students’ lack of interest in engaging in eating properly. The adopted research methodologies invited students to engage with the research at every stage, recording testimonies and micro narratives of students feeling the stigma of poverty and skipping meals, recording students’ food intake, the frequency of ignoring food because of it being of poor quality or a lack of food choices, as well as visual material and data testament to isolation and depression as the result of food poverty. The students were thus researchers collaborating and co-constructing, creating student reports, organising groups protesting on campus and in the city, highlighting their right to fair access to healthy foods, and involving political parties and the press. As a result 47 articles were published in the Le Monde and La Voix du Nord (The Voice of the North), the regional daily newspaper.

Professor de Lulio asserted that the work is ongoing, calling for broader research perspectives, including examples such as the absence of research on agri-food perspectives, the creation of solidarity shops where students can buy food items at a lower rate or pay for their food according to what they can afford on campus. She asserted that research was also needed on the correlation between a lack of food and academic achievement, and the ways in which public health concerns in each local authority, and the government, could collaborate with the people in the community grassroots.

Professor de Lulio gave permission to Dr Mehri Holliday to publish this summary with the accompanying slide through the Canterbury Society.

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