The Hub Explained

How we’re influencing policy to create social and environmental change

What is a food system

“The food system is not just characterised by separate activities producing collective outcomes; it is the dynamic interaction between these subsystems that defines the systemic properties of the food system. In other words, the presence or absence of resilience cannot be attributed to or measured by changes in one unit without considering how those changes influence behaviour in the other units of the system. The food system is thus defined by its dynamic properties, which involve information flows between the system and its components and between the system and the external environment beyond the system boundary.”

Prof Bob Doherty, et al. Food Systems Policy Hub Director

The global challenge

Much is expected from our global food system to meet the challenges of a growing population. However, if we simply produce more food using the current agri-food system we will require 120 percent more water, 42 percent more land and this production alone will lead to a 2°C rise in global temperature. We cannot meet our food needs through a business- as-usual approach, but require strategies for adaptation and transformation.

Our needs must be set within a growing consensus that our food system is increasingly vulnerable, with rising environmental risks from climate change, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, and antimicrobial resistance, among others. Environmental risks are coupled with rising socioeconomic risks of increasing hunger, a mounting health crisis from poor diets, and poor working conditions for many working in agri-food supply chains. These problems provide an immense challenge for policy makers – which is why taking a food systems approach can be so effective tackling these diverse issues.

Our solution and expertise

Our Food Systems Policy Hub builds on the work of the N8 AgriFood programme. Established in 2015, this collaboration brings together the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York, to deliver an integrated, large-scale, multi-disciplinary research effort to find solutions to the long term global challenge of providing sufficient, safe and nutritious food for a growing, increasingly affluent population. By uniting these multiple disciplines under one collaborative project, N8 AgriFood is perfectly placed to draw upon expertise to offer a full view of the food system.

Setting policy in the food system is complex. Our food systems thinking enables a more coherent interdisciplinary approach, allowing identification of the key interactions, stakeholders and points of intervention, as well as any trade-offs, synergies and unintended consequences of interventions. It provides a platform for a joined-up approach to food research and policy making across industry, government, third sector and civil society.

Our Mission Statement

Promoting Policy Coherence Through A Systems Approach

Traditionally challenges in food production, supply and consumption have been studied and tackled in isolation – and critically, at a national level, responsibility for policy within these areas is distributed across different ministries or departments. There is now a growing recognition that effective change requires us to look at food through a single, integrated framework – an overarching ‘‘food systems” approach which encompasses all aspects of food production, processing, distribution, and consumption. A systems approach captures the multiple environmental and socioeconomic drivers acting on different parts of the food system and how these interact to deliver outcomes – enabling broader understanding of the impacts of specific policy goals.

Our objectives are to deepen and extend our integrated food systems approach and leverage it to influence policy. We will engage in cross- cutting research to provide knowledge and evidence to inform and change policy at local, national and international levels. We will progress and develop new partnerships with businesses to influence food systems practice and support academics across the N8 universities to develop their capacity to achieve food policy impact.

Embedding our experts in parliamentary policy