What is FixOurFood?
Running from January 2021-January 2026, FixOurFood is a multi-disciplinary research programme, anchored at the University of York, which aims to transform the Yorkshire food system to one that is regenerative – benefitting both human and planetary health.
Why is the research necessary?
The current food system is not fit for purpose. The food system is a complex web of production, delivery, consumption and health; it encompasses the process that it takes to put food on our plate from farm to fork and is heavily influenced by many factors such as the choices we make and the demands we put on the planet.
There is an urgent need, to not just change elements of it, but to transform it to a regenerative food system that spirals up environmental, social and economic benefits with approaches that aim to build beyond sustainable levels. With a regenerative food system it will be possible to provide food and nourishment for all, improve public health and prosperity whilst replenishing and restoring the planet.
What is FixOurFood doing?
There are three key strands to the work of FixOurFood – looking at Hybrid business models, Regenerative farming and Sustainable and healthy food for young people. Research into Policy influence as well as the Metrics (measurables) of the food system cuts across the three main research threads. Finally, transformation takes a different way of thinking about change, and so FixOurFood is using the Three Horizons tool to guide the research process.
Hybrid business models
Sustainable and healthy food for children
The Yorkshire region incorporates diverse elements of food production, supply and consumption. It has the highest concentration of food and drink businesses in the UK and our aim is to improve their social and environmental impact.
Yorkshire contains 13-17% of the UK’s crop production area (for cereals, oilseed rape, potatoes, field vegetables and glasshouse production), and 10-14% of the UK’s livestock headcount (cattle, sheep and poultry). The variety of farming systems within the region and the diversity of soil and land cover combined with networks of innovative farmers, makes it an excellent test bed for more regenerative approaches.
Yorkshire is ethnically diverse with significant social and economic deprivation and ill health. Many areas show some of the worst income deprivation statistics affecting children in England. We aim to work with schools to help support positive change for all young people.
We won’t transform the food system without changing public policies and this in turn requires decision making processes – or governance – that are fit for purpose. FixOurFood is identifying which policies and governance structures are needed to support transformative change, with a particular focus on new innovative tools which can deliver food system transformation in Yorkshire and the UK.
If we are going to make transformational change to the food system, we need to know what to change for optimal impact. We are developing code that anyone can use which contains numbers about different parts of the food system and a dashboard interface so anyone can see the effect of different interventions and how they would affect the food system.
Ensuring that this transformation takes place is a huge challenge and we all have a part to play; our contribution is to transform the Yorkshire food system. Yorkshire is of sufficient size to understand the integrated and complex dynamics of the food system while being sufficiently bounded. Through collaboration with our core partnersand multiple stakeholders from across the region, we are using the powerful Three Horizon futures toolto inform our thinking.
Transformational change is more than adjusting or improving existing systems. It includes fundamental pattern shifts of activities, approaches and beliefs, creating new interactions between values, nature, technology and behaviours.
A regenerative food system is one that spirals up environmental, social and economic benefits using approaches that aim to reduce harm and build beyond sustainable levels. Regenerative approaches aim to provide food and nourishment for all, improving public health and prosperity while replenishing and restoring the planet.
Three Horizons is a simple and intuitive tool that helps support dialogue, planning and action to achieve transformed futures. It helps us to explore which parts of our food system are no longer fit for purpose, identify visionary and more viable futures, and recognise the ways emerging trends, ideas and actions can make those futures a reality.
FixOurFood is one of four research consortia funded by the £47.5m Transforming UK Food System, Strategic Priorities Fund Programme delivered by UKRI, in partnership with the Global Food Security Programme, BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, Defra, DHSC, PHE, Innovate UK and FSA.