The TGRAINS team is a multi-disciplinary team located in Wales, England and Scotland, working to generate evidence on how we can transform our food systems to be healthy and sustainable.
Here you can find out what our team has been up to and the impact we are generating.
Minister for Social Justice announces support for food partnerships across Wales
Yesterday (Monday, July 11th), Jane Hutt, Minister for Social Justice chaired a Cost of Living Summit during which she announced a series of intervention packages, including financial support for cross-sector food partnerships in Wales.
This funding from Welsh Government is worth £3 million and will support the development of cross-sector food partnerships. The funding will also strengthen existing food partnerships that help build resilience in local food networks through the co-ordination of on the ground, food-related activity; help tackle the root-causes of food poverty; develop citizen action; maximise the effectiveness of projects and ensure that resources are targeted at areas of greatest need.
The funding announced yesterday comes after a Food Poverty Roundtable that was held in May which brought together a range of stakeholders to discuss the impact of rising food prices and energy costs on levels of food poverty. Feedback from this round table session helped to inform how the funding should be directed to more effectively support people experiencing food poverty and how Welsh Government can help to reduce and prevent the need for emergency food provision in the longer term. The Accessible Veg project has fed into these processes, hosted two visits by the Social Justice Minister to farm and charity partners, and spoke at the Roundtable and other events hosted by the Minister.
Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, one of the projects co-Lead said, “We are thrilled that the Minister has recognised, with funding, the importance of local food partnerships in driving forward the changes we need to ensure that everyone has access to healthy and sustainable diets. It’s wonderful to see the Accessible Veg project outcomes feed into policy and impact in this way.”
Accessible Veg pilot project results
The Accessible Veg pilot project, which builds on TGRAIN research results (see below for more information), launched its project report on 1 July at the Food Sense Wales Food in the Communities Conference. Significant findings from the research show that food-insecure households experience improved wellbeing and food security as a result of receiving weekly veg bags. Interview responses highlight the powerful impact of being a part of the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership and the regularly-sustained positive communication within the community. Another key outcome from the project was the importance of community-scale partnerships in supporting and retaining food-insecure households in the veg bag schemes. Barriers faced by food-insecure households include:
- Lack of information, knowledge, and confidence about using the vegetables
- Lack of transport to collect veg bags as a side effect of poverty
- Multi-layered mental health problems and other issues
Policy recommendations from the work include:
- Quick funding for small projects and initiatives and best practice projects. Small grants of up to £5000 that can be accessed quickly to help farms and/or charity partners to establish a solidarity veg bag scheme or other social innovation to circumvent barriers to participation for food-insecure households.
- Developing Sustainable Food Partnerships that support local partnerships between actors in the food systems, for example Sustainable Food Places Wales.
- The use of Healthy Start vouchers for veg bags and further pilot projects that interlink health, community, environment, and agriculture. Again, this can be achieved through partnership building and a potential integration into the Healthy Start programme.
- Coordinating and funding links to existing Government policies. For example, Healthy Weight Healthy Wales could be supported by providing funding for linking local Health Board Plans and Nutrition Skills for Life with CSA schemes.
- Sustainable funding commitment to provide long-term support for community-based initiatives and build consistent and stronger links to existing Government policies. By providing long-term grants for sustainability to organisations involved in community-scale supply chains, such as food hubs and CSAs, the Government can reduce administrative burden and loss of capacity and institutional knowledge.
- Support and funding accessible to people that experience multiple vulnerabilities, often linked to poverty (e.g. food and fuel insecurity, mental health and physical health issues). Social prescribing and food vouchers that can be used towards CSA memberships can address both well-being and food insecurity.
TGRAIN Project Policy Messages
1 December 2021
The ‘Resilience of the UK Food System in a Global Context’ (GFS FSR) research programme has released a Programme Report, outlining multiple approaches to enhancing resilience.
The Report contains general recommendations as well as tailored messages for a range of stakeholders in government, agri-food businesses, NGOs, and investment and research sectors.
The major research Programme, launched in 2016 by the Global Food Security programme, comprised 13 interdisciplinary research projects based in UK institutions. Summarising five years of research, the report also contains messages based on findings by each of the 13 Projects and focused on specific stakeholders. These messages are intended to lead to further exploration and actions by those aiming to enhance food system resilience.
Key messages from the report
• Discussions on how to enhance food system resilience need to be framed by the answers to four key questions:
o Where do we need to increase resilience?
o What do we need to build resilience against?
o From whose perspective is enhanced resilience needed?
o Over what time period is enhanced resilience needed?
• There are three strategies for enhancing resilience – the ‘3R’s.
o Robustness: aim to resist disruption to existing food system outcomes
o Recovery: aim to return to existing food system outcomes after disruption
o Reorientation: aim to accept alternative food system outcomes before or after disruption
All three strategies require adapting food system activities.
The full report can be viewed at www.foodsystemresilienceuk.org/fsr-messages
TGRAINS Project Messages
New Food (Wales) Bill based on report “Welsh Food System Fit for Future Generations” (see publication below)
On 17 November 2021, a proposal put forward by Peter Fox MS to introduce a new Food (Wales) Bill won the support of the Senedd.
During the plenary session, Peter Fox MS asked Senedd members to support the Bill’s principles and its aim to establish a more sustainable food system in Wales to strengthen food security, improve Wales’ socio-economic well-being, and enhance consumer choice. The framework for the Bill was drawn largely from Dr Sanderson Bellamy’s WWF report (see below) and she consulted on the development of the Bill.
The Bill was selected in the Sixth Senedd’s first Member Bill Ballot, a process that provides all Members of the Senedd (excluding members of the Welsh Government) with the opportunity to put forward a proposal for new legislation they would like to see introduced.
Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy, Associate Professor of Food Systems of UWE and member of Food Policy Alliance Cymru added: “Potentially this is a huge moment for food in Wales. An overarching food strategy for the nation is desperately needed if we are going to meet the enormous challenges we face in terms of diet-related disease, food inequality, climate change, nature loss and food sovereignty. If we don’t come together to plan now, events will overtake us and we will not have the resilience to deal with future shocks to the global supply chain. The task now is to use the bill to come together and imagine a fairer, sustainable and economically viable food system for the nation.”
Peter Fox MS now has 13 months to prepare the details and formally introduce the Bill.
You can hear Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy talking on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today about the Food (Wales) Bill here.
In November 2021, Dr Susanna Mills presented some results from the TGRAINS household study at The Lancet Public Health Science: A national conference dedicated to new research in UK public health. The key results show that CSA participants’ dietary intake was associated with a 28% reduction in mean greenhouse gas emissions compared with controls. CSA participants also consumed diets adhering more closely to EAT-Lancet dietary guidelines: they consumed significantly fewer calories from meat (46 vs 121 kcal/day) and dairy (205 vs 284 kcal/day), and more from vegetables (93 vs 43 kcal/day) and legumes (42 vs 19 kcal/day), than did control participants. Mean caloric intake did not differ between groups. Ten CSA participants (22%) reported eating more healthily since joining the scheme.
We propose that agricultural and wider social and economic policies that increase the accessibility of CSAs for a more diverse demographic could support achieving health, biodiversity, and zero-emission policy targets.
Mills, S., Furness, E., Clear, A.K., Finnigan, S.M., Meador, E., Milne, A.E., Sharp, R.T. and Sanderson Bellamy, A., 2021. The role of community-supported agriculture in building health and sustainability into UK diets: a mixed-methods study. The Lancet, 398, p.S68.
New TGRAINS pilot project: Accessible Veg
Based on project results showing the impact of CSA veg box schemes on healthy and sustainable diets, we set out to explore how to extend those benefits to food-insecure households in our pilot project launched in June 2021, with financial support from UWE Bristol, Cardiff University, WWF Cymru and Food Sense Wales. We are also collaborating with Dr Caroline Verfuerth at Cardiff University’s ESRC-funded Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformation. In Accessible Veg, we are working with 4 CSA farms who expressed an interest in exploring solidarity models for making their vegetables accessible to food-insecure households; those farms have partnered up with local food charities. Thirty-eight households have received a weekly veg bag for a period of 2-4 months. The research team interviewed participants and collected 3-day food diaries at the project start and are in the process of interviewing participants again and collecting 3-day food diaries prior to the end of the harvest season. There have already been some really useful lessons learned about challenges and what activities can support food-insecure households experiencing the health benefits of receiving a weekly veg bag.
Our pilot project has already generated some great interest from Welsh Ministers with two different visits to our farm partners, Graeme Wilson and Polly Davies at Slade Farm.
In March 2021, members of the TGRAINS team published an article in Ambio using our data from the household interview study to explore ways in which we can build more resilient and just food systems based on lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
Sanderson Bellamy, A., Furness, E., Nicol, P., Pitt, H. and Taherzadeh, A., 2021. Shaping more resilient and just food systems: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ambio, 50(4), pp.782-793.
Lessons learned: TGRAINS household interview study Interim Report
30 September 2020
The TGRAINS Interview study is a longitudinal study to find out whether or not building relationships between people and the source of their food impacts household food culture. To do this, we have interviewed households that have recently joined a community-supported agriculture (CSA) scheme and we are following these households over time to see how they change the food activities. To compare, we have also interviewed households not a part of a CSA— we refer to these households as our Control Group. Click below to read about some of our initial findings.
Covid-19 and the Food System
Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy discussed the Covid-19 effects on the Food System in the new Sustainable Places Institute’s podcast. Together with the researchers Alice Taherzadeh, Dr. Hannah Pitt and Dr. Poppy Nicol, they analyse events such as empty supermarket shelves, closed restaurants, increased demand for local veg boxes and farm labour to show how food clearly is a key issue to consider in the current pandemic. You can access it by clicking here.
Farmers Under Fire
Watch Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy explain how wide the concept of sustainability is and how it plays a role in consumers’ decisions when shopping for food in ITV’s “Wales This Week”.
Farmers Under Fire: “For generations farming has been part of our national identity. But with the industry under fire like never before, Wales This Week assesses the perfect storm facing Welsh agriculture.”
A Welsh Food System Fit for Future Generations
The report from Sustainable Places Research Institute commissioned by WWF Cymru highlights how an integrated food system should look in accordance with the goals and objectives of The Well-being of Future Generations Act. Access the full report written by Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy and Professor Terry Marsden.