Tackling childhood obesity and improving access to healthy, sustainable food for disadvantaged communities are among the goals of two projects involving Cranfield University academics that will benefit from a slice of £24 million funding.

Experts from the University’s centres for Environment and Agricultural Informatics, and Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management, will join professionals from other higher education institutions and partner organisations on two five-year interdisciplinary research programmes that aim to revolutionise the UK food system.

Helping disadvantaged communities to access healthy, sustainable food

One project will see Cranfield’s logistics and supply chain expertise used in developing solutions that will provide people living in disadvantaged communities with improved access to fresher food and a balance of desirable, sustainable, affordable and healthy products.

A group of academics led by the University of Reading and including experts from Cranfield University, the University of Sussex, the University of Plymouth and the University of Kent, will work with people living in communities in Whitley, Berkshire; Brighton and Hove, West Sussex; Tower Hamlets, London; and Plymouth, Devon, as well as food businesses and policy makers, to find new ways to tackle systemic issues around food inequalities and ensure that regular consumption of a nutritious diet, produced in a way that is good for the planet, is attainable for all members of society.

Professor David Oglethorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the School of Management, said: “Our Centre for Logistics, Procurement and Supply Chain Management is world-renowned, and I am delighted that the expertise and experience of its academics will feed into projects with such worthwhile aims.

“Everyone should have access to healthy food, and we hope this project will remove the obstacles that currently prevent communities and individuals from making better, healthier food choices.”

Regenerative and equitable healthy eating for children and young people

A group of academics led by the University of York and including experts from Cranfield’s Centre for Environment and Agricultural Informatics as well as the University of York, the University of Leeds, the University of Manchester, the University of Oxford, and City, University of London, will look at interventions in food retailing and farming that will positively influence dietary health in young people, as well as help to build a more diversified hybrid food economy which sources produce from farmers that promote increased soil health, carbon sequestration and biodiversity.

Planned interventions include the changing of food environments and menus in Yorkshire schools and nurseries, the scaling-up of new community businesses and new models of regenerative farming.

Professor Leon Terry, Director of Environment and Agrifood at Cranfield, said: “The vision for this project is of a food system providing regenerative and equitable healthy eating for the next generation, supported by regenerative hybrid food economies and regenerative farming.”

The outcomes of these projects could transform the UK food system, eradicating inequalities and helping to tackle huge issues such as obesity and global warming.

Both the projects in which Cranfield is involved are being funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) as part of an overall £47.5 million investment in transforming the UK food system for healthier people and a healthier planet.

Notes for editors

The £47.5M ‘Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment SPF Programme’ is delivered by UKRI in partnership with the Global Food Security Programme, BBSRC, ESRC, MRC, NERC, Defra, DHSC, PHE, Innovate UK and FSA. It aims to fundamentally transform the UK food system by placing healthy people and a healthy natural environment at its centre, addressing questions around what we should eat, produce and manufacture and what we should import, taking into account the complex interactions between health, environment and socioeconomic factors. By co-designing research and training across disciplines and stakeholders, and joining up healthy and accessible consumption with sustainable food production and supply, this programme will deliver coherent evidence to enable concerted action from policy, business and civil society.