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The future for sustainable food

6 January 2021

Experts from Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) say sustainable and just food systems are more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Academics from the Institute joined ASPECT’s Annual Event 2020 to set out their vision for the future Supported by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund, Aspect is a £5 Million UK project providing specialist support for organisations looking to make the most of commercial and business opportunities from social sciences research. Here Research Fellows Hannah Pitt, Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, and Research Associate Poppy Nicol outline the issues at stake.

“We were delighted to discuss just food system futures at ASPECT’s Annual Event. It is a topic that has never been more relevant than it is today.

Covid-19 is highlighting multiple vulnerabilities in food systems. Long-term stressors have eroded food systems resilience, making them vulnerable to short-term shocks like pandemics.

The pandemic has highlighted multiple vulnerabilities, including the dominance of a small pool of retailers and producers, reliance on just-in-time supply chains and dependence on imported food and labour.

As well as short-term shocks like Covid-19, the upswell of support for Black Lives Matter during the pandemic highlights the need to address injustices including racism when tackling power asymmetries within current food systems.

But in moments of crisis, urgency might override other concerns, meaning decision-making entrenches injustice and fails to include marginalised voices.

Whilst the impacts of COVID-19 are hopefully temporary, other crises such as extreme climatic events will likely increase in severity and frequency, bringing similar societal impacts.

It is therefore crucial to understand how the current global emergency is affecting food systems and learn from responses—both positive and negative—so reactions to future crises can promote just, sustainable outcomes.”

PLACE is seeking to develop an action plan to further the role of research as an intermediary between practice and policy. This compliments ASPECT’s goal of redressing the research commercialisation balance in favour of the social sciences by connecting universities, businesses, academics, and industry leaders to turn ideas into commercial solutions and solve pressing social challenges.

The Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACE) is one of 12 social science research groups that make up Cardiff University’s Social Science Research Park (SPARK). SPARK will move to a new home on Cardiff Innovation Campus in 2022. To find out more please get in touch at or to watch the webinar in its entirety please visit the ASPECT Annual Event 2020 page.