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FoodFutures has coordinated and participated in a number of research projects over the years that aim to inform strategic work across the FoodFutures working group themes. We also have an ongoing collaboration with Lancaster University to further develop projects and resources for the partnership.

This page aims to build a collaborative community around useful food research by:

Highlighting current research projects from FoodFutures and our partner research institutions.

Sharing publications and resources emerging from our previous research.

Sharing contacts and research ideas so that future projects can develop in this area.

Exchanging ideas on how we can build a supportive research culture.

Explore this page using the search function or scroll through the case studies and resources below.

Current FoodFutures research

A key focus of our FoodFutures procurement working group is to embed local and sustainable food procurement into local institutions. To support this work we have been involved in a project to identify barriers and opportunities to improve the sustainability and resilience of food procurement in our local area. Procurement can be a tool to promote a more sustainable food economy both locally and globally, in addition to addressing increasing concerns about the impact of climate change and other shocks on food supply chains.

In response to this, we designed a research project to examine food procurement practices at the city level in Lancaster and Leeds. The project was a collaboration between researchers at Lancaster and Leeds Universities, FoodFutures, FoodWise (Leeds Sustainable Food City) and Lucy Antal (Feedback Global). It was funded by the N8 AgriFood research programme.

The research involved interviews with procurement staff from hospitals, school catering, the councils and the universities as well as an analysis of their procurement policies. Through this work we have captured experiences of food procurement; we have found work worth celebrating and have summarised key learnings that we plan to share widely. We have also identified where support and guidance is needed.

The project team are currently creating outputs from this work including a report highlighting both successful approaches to incorporating sustainability into procurement and approaches to addressing the barriers which exist.

The team will also be developing a knowledge exchange event for procurement professionals and local businesses in the region. This will draw on the findings of this work as well as providing a forum for exploring what approaches to procurement and supply might work effectively in our region. To find out more about this work, please contact r.marshall2@lancaster.ac.uk

View Action Research Slides

In late 2019 we received funding from Lancaster University and the Economic and Social Research Council to increase the visibility and impact of our work.This was both timely and important as FoodFutures had been doing excellent work across many areas (including winning a Bronze Award from the national Sustainable Food Cities network) and yet many people and organisations didn’t know about us or how they could work with us to take forward the fair and sustainable food agenda locally and nationally. The funding enabled us to build this website, strengthen our links with university researchers and improve our facilitation skills as a group so that we were in a better position to leverage change through the many networks we are part of. We decided to run an action research alongside this work to:

  • Capture evidence of the impact that FoodFutures was having on local and national policy and practice.
  • Ensure that we, as a partnership, make the most of the learning opportunities during this time by embedding processes of group and personal reflection within partnership activities
  • We are also interested in exploring what a permaculture approach to research might look like and how this is different to traditional academic approaches to impact and research. For more information, please contact Beccy Whittle r.whittle@lancaster.ac.uk

Previous FoodFutures research

Sustainability audit of Lancaster’s seasonal and charter market (2019)

FarmStart Feasibility Report for Lancaster District

Community economic development plan

2015 Consultation: Overcoming barriers to buying and selling local food

Case Study

Researchers linked to FoodFutures:

Dr Rebecca Whittle

Beccy is a lecturer in sustainability at Lancaster Environment Centre. Her background is human geography but she is particularly passionate about participatory action research – trying to get university research and teaching working in ways which support local communities and vice versa. Beccy works on a diverse range of topics including alternative food networks, care, wellbeing and parenting but her major interest is in the relationships through which all these things intersect and the role that this can have in creating a better future for people and planet. She works part-time in order to give her chance to experiment with these things in the context of her own life, including through the community garden that she helps to run.

Dr Rachel Marshall 

Rachel trained as a soil scientist looking at the influence of agricultural practices on our soils and the processes associated with them, including greenhouse gas emissions. From this work she became interested in how an intensive, production focussed food system is driving environmental and social problems seen globally. She is now an interdisciplinary researcher working with those developing alternative approaches to a UK food system. She currently works for the N8 AgriFood programme at Lancaster University where her role is to connect food systems researchers, stakeholders and practitioners to design research in collaboration.

Dr Jessica Davies

Jess is a Professor in Sustainability at Lancaster University. She has a background in environmental sciences and has research expertise in plant, soil water interactions and ecosystem services. She leads a number of food, farming and soil related research projects, such as the Rurban Revolution project that is exploring how increasing urban food growing could benefit our health, our sustainability and resilience. As Director of the Centre for Global Eco-innovation, she is interested in supporting innovative partnerships in the region and beyond to co-deliver sustainable solutions.

Dr Dionysios (Dennis) Touliatos

Dennis is an interdisciplinary researcher, with a background in plant biology and environmental social sciences. Dennis currently works as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience on the European Horizon 2020 project ‘Organic-PLUS’, investigating fossil-fuel free plastic alternatives, peat-free alternatives and vegan fertilisers for organic growers. As part of this project a peat free veganic trial has been conducted at Claver Hill Community Farm in Lancaster.

Dr Rod Everett

Rod is a trained ecologist and researcher in organic and permaculture systems. He is also a farmer based in Roeburndale. He manages Backsbottom farm organically, with wildlife being the priority. He raises sheep and over 200 varieties of heritage apples which are sold to the local market.

Rod works with the Lune Rivers Trust to implement Natural Flood Management measures on his own own farm and with other farmers up the Lune valley. Part of this work involves setting up an educational Flood Management Trail.

Rod is  one of Permaculture’s elders and has been teaching the Permaculture Design Certificate (a 72 hour + course) in the UK and around Europe for over 35 years. He is an avid researcher for finding ways of managing land for food production and wildlife, that work in harmony with natural ecology. On behalf of FoodFutures Rod has developed a ‘resilient food’ checklist to stimulate community conversations and guide the partnership’s work.

Work with us

For academics interested in working with us

Research needs are always emerging from the FoodFutures network and we are very open to collaborating with researchers on any level of project, from student dissertations to PhD projects and funded grants.

So if you’re interested in working with us then please get in touch. A great way to do this is by using our ‘wants/needs’ boards to post your research idea or by emailing Rachel Marshall r.marshall2@lancaster.ac.uk and we’ll try and put you in touch with the right person to discuss your idea. However, in order to make the process work better for everyone, it’s good to keep a few things in mind when you contact us:

1. Co-design is good! We know that you have excellent ideas and a specialist knowledge of your field, which is an excellent start. However, at FoodFutures we also have expertise and ideas that we think it is equally important in developing good research ideas. So, where possible, we really appreciate it if you’re up for designing the research questions and methods with us (this is so much nicer for us than when we just get to be the case study once the interesting bit is decided!). We can also support with the development of research bids, provided our time is respected.

2. Like academia, the community food sector is extremely busy – many projects are run by volunteers who are busy juggling multiple projects whilst also holding down a paying job. So, while we would like to help you wherever possible, it’s really nice if you’re able to think about whether you might be able to give back to us in some way – perhaps by offering some volunteer time yourself in exchange for the interview that we give you, or by seeing if there are ways in which your expertise could feed into the work of the partnership. We would love to use this research webpage to host stories that emerge from your research and share relevant resources you create with our local partnership and wider national Sustainable Food Places Network.


For local food businesses/organisations with a research need

Perhaps you could do with some help from a researcher on a food-related question? If so, we’d love to hear from you as we’re really keen to link up our friendly local researchers with external organisations who would benefit from collaborative research. Please use our ‘wants/needs’ boards to post your question or email Rachel Marshall r.marshall2@lancaster.ac.uk and we’ll try and put you in touch with the right person to discuss your idea.

The good news is there are a number of possible ways in which we can try to get your question answered. The bad news is that it isn’t just a case of asking a question and getting an answer! That’s why it’s good if you can keep a few things in mind when you contact us:

1. Sadly universities don’t just have staff sitting around waiting to answer people’s research questions (we agree, it would be lovely if they did but unfortunately that’s not the case!). This means that, even if you have a great research question, we have to go through a number of steps to see whether/how we can help you answer it. For example, we have to find a researcher who is interested in your idea and specialises in that field. We then have to figure out what level of work would be involved (for example, is it a simple question that a student could work on easily or is this Einstein level stuff that would need a big team to answer it?). The next question is how to get that student/research team together (often this involves money, time or usually both!)

2. None of this is to put you off getting in touch with your idea since there are moments when all the above can come together easily. But hopefully having an understanding of the hurdles involved will help you understand that, if it doesn’t work out, it’s not because we didn’t care or the idea wasn’t a good one.

3. From our experience, the best collaborative projects emerge from conversation and relationships that are sustained over a period of time. (These are much more likely to succeed than ‘help, I need the answer to this question in 2 months’ time!’ approaches). So if you’re able to get to know us a little better and take part in some of the FoodFutures activities, we’ll be starting off on a good footing.

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