Middlesex University academics are co-leading major research into how social enterprises can deliver healthy and sustainable food in the community.
Researchers from MDX, the University of Surrey (co-lead), Glasgow Caledonian University and Shared Assets will be involved in the £380,000 project which been funded by a grant from the government's UK Research Innovation (UKRI) body as part of the Transforming UK Food Systems programme.
MDX's Centre for Enterprise and Economic Development Research (CEEDR) is spearheading the research, which aims to “tackle the crisis of poor dietary health and sustainable food production”.
The research will focus on the role of social enterprises in helping to provide food systems that are more inclusive, sustainable and healthy.
This will include social enterprises providing community growing spaces and distribution schemes, leisure and fitness centres, children's nurseries and other community-based services.
The project will work closely with six partner social enterprises: Community Transport Glasgow (tackling access to affordable food), Cultivate Powys (local growing and social prescribing), London Early Years Foundation (nursery chef initiative), Selby Trust London (food and community hub), Social Adventures Salford (therapeutic growing and local food hub), Windmill Hill City Farm Bristol (growing space and community hub).
The research findings will be used to co-design resources and toolkits that other social enterprises can use and also be shared as examples of good practice across the country.
Professor Fergus Lyon, the Director of CEEDR, said “This project comes at a crucial time when there is a need for affordable, healthy food, grown in a sustainable manner.
“This collaboration between researchers and innovative social enterprises will be able to explore ways of tackling obesity and also tackling the impact of food production on climate change and biodiversity loss.
“They can do this in ways that other initiatives have been lacking.”
The UKRI has awarded £14 million to 11 different research projects through the Transforming UK Food Systems programme in a bid to improve health outcomes for people across the UK.