Local food-growing initiatives respond to the Covid-19 crisis: enhancing well-being, building community for better futures

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Faculty of Arts and Social Sci (FASS)

Abstract

The Covid-19 crisis has revealed the stark inequalities in UK society. Many vulnerable people have
had more difficulty accessing food, so third-sector organisations have mobilised emergency food
provision. They have also expanded community food-growing initiatives, which enhance
participants' well-being, strengthen social cohesion, localise food provision and thus build future
resilience. This project will investigate the expansion of community cultivation during the Covid-
19 crisis, its benefits, social barriers and means to overcome them, especially for more vulnerable
marginalised social groups, with the aim to strengthen third-sector capacities for such inclusion.
Through participatory digital story-telling, this project will work with third-sector partners in
community cultivation to elicit participants' feelings, aspirations, social connections and multiple
benefits from community food activities. This knowledge will identify the most effective strategies
that have been deployed during the Covid-19 crisis, and devise ways to share and promote them.
Thus the digital story-telling process has a dual purpose: a research method and a means to
promote better practices through our third-sector partners. As a practical impact, food growing
activities will strengthen their engagement with vulnerable marginalised people, thus helping to
overcome inequalities. Based on the digital assets and research insights, the project will provide
an open-access online capacity-building programme for community food programmes, so that
they can outscale similar benefits around the country. This impacts will promote better mental
health, well-being and better access to healthy food; they will also spread agri-food practices that
enhance social resilience, and thus provide an alternative to the unhealthy, unsustainable agrifood
system.

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