From Hunger to Well-Being. Exploring the Role of Community-Based Food Initiatives

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Nadina LUCA, University of York, United Kingdom
Background: The rise of household food insecurity, increased rates of obesity, food waste and food distribution inequalities pose significant questions to the current food system. In England, the rise of community-based initiatives such as kitchens and cafés and ‘social restaurants’ are proposed as a potential solution for recovering and using the surplus food, respectively localising food and providing spaces of interaction that can support well-being, social capital and sustainable consumption. However, more research is required to assess the impact of such initiatives on social change, nutritional health, well-being and sustainability. Aims: This paper builds upon the sociology of food and transformative consumer research to investigate how community-based food projects emerge and their role within the food system in England. Methods: The paper adopts an action research approach and builds upon interviews with participants in community-based food initiatives as producers, coordinators, consumers, volunteers, local authorities and other organisations such as supermarkets and food charities. Findings: Emerging findings suggest that community kitchens, and cafés operate as participatory spaces which recognise the social dimension of eating and foster the creation of social networks. Such initiatives may act as spaces for the redistribution of food surplus. However, they enable alternative food spaces where surplus food is ‘upcycled’ to contribute to well-being outcomes including nutrition, food availability, food literacy and food socialisation (Block et al. 2011). Power dynamics and negotiation processes mark the interactions of various actors participating in these initiatives. The lines between producers and consumers are blurred as members of the community take active part in setting up social spaces for cooking and eating together. Conclusions: The study highlights the potential of community-based food initiatives for social innovation. It pinpoints the creativity of consumers to resist to the failures of the traditional food systems but also the limitations and challenges facing such initiatives.