Transformations to Regenerative Food Systems

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: The York Management School


Our vision is a transformation of food systems (FS) across the UK towards being 'regenerative'. Our current FS are responsible for major social and environmental impacts, such as poor diets, ill health and major environmental degradation and threaten the long-term wellbeing of people and the planet. Because many aspects of ecological and human health have already passed critical thresholds, new regenerative approaches are needed that go beyond just reducing harm to sustainable levels and instead develop FS that have dynamics that 'spiral up' social, economic and environmental benefit, and for all. This research therefore aims to answer two main questions: (1) What do regenerative systems look like? and (2) How can transformations be enabled so we can get to regenerative FS?
To answer these questions we will work with diverse stakeholders to change the Yorkshire food system and use the learning to inform change efforts in other parts of the UK and beyond. Our work will focus on shifting trajectories towards regenerative dynamics in three inter-related systems of: healthy eating for young children, hybrid food economies and farming. This will enable us to consider not just the food chain (farming to fork) but also its outcomes, such as food security (availability, access and utilisation of food), quality, safety and social welfare, as well as how these aspects interact with social, economic and environmental drivers.
We will use novel approaches that combine different processes of data collection and 'learning by doing' from applying different interventions, while also creatively developing solutions and new ways of thinking about FS. The work will also use innovative thinking that will enable us to keep focus on stimulating transformational kinds of change. This will be delivered using a 'co-creation' approach, with researchers and other professionals working together to bring about change. Our research has already been developed with a range of FS stakeholders from farming, industry, civil society and national and regional government. This process has resulted in a new anchor institutions platform and a 'Leaders for Change' group of young people, both of which will help use drive system change.
Our work will have six main outcomes for Yorkshire and beyond: (1) New visions of regenerative FS; (2) Scalable innovative interventions (e.g. new models of food procurement and environmentally sustainable menus for schools and early years settings; educational resources/activities linking healthy diet and climate change such as remote/interactive farming platform for schools; hybrid business models like food hubs, community urban vertical farms; a UK wide model to predict impacts of scaling regenerative farming, linking of regenerative farming produce to schools and anchor institutions procurement); (3) New policies and governance mechanisms (such as the Food Systems Council for Yorkshire) to ensure impact well beyond the programme; (4) New metrics and platform to help guide and drive transformation (e.g. new data for National Food School monitoring; and an open-source codebase with quantitative systems models to co-create a new metrics dashboard for FS transformation); (5) New narratives for different stakeholders to support cultural change; and (6) Bring together different stakeholders, information and new ways of thinking to ensure long-term transformational intent.
Overall, our cutting edge science that uses co-creation and action oriented methods will actively shift trajectories towards new kinds of regenerative FS in Yorkshire. It will also produce cutting-edge science about how to achieve transformation of FS towards the new concepts of regenerative futures. Through the influential researchers and partners involved, this learning will also be actively fed into UK policy and international endeavours, ensuring the programme has wide-reaching and long-lasting impact.


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