Food Security: Is the UK already in Crisis? – Kate Cooper

After a generally well-supplied, possibly over-indulgent, festive season, the first presentation of The Lunar Society in 2022 was about Food Security (and Insecurity). Following on the success of a previous presentation to The Lunar Society by Kate Cooper in 2017, it was considered necessary to revisit the complex subject of food supply.

Kate Cooper is the Executive Director of the Birmingham Food Council. She is also a Visiting Professional Fellow at the Crisis Management Centre, Aston Business School. She had served as Chair of the Birmingham Food Council CIC Board 2014-2018. She is an author having participated in writing the book ‘The New Optimists; Scientists View Tomorrow’s World & What It Means To Us’, launched by the BBC’s Science Editor, David Shukman, on the first day of the 2010 British Science Festival. She has authored other books.

In inimitable fashion, Kate presented various scenarios relating to food/fruit portion sizes relating to daily requirements, with the aid of a fruit-bowl and some fruit as props, as well as to transport of a package containing two pears as an example. After this, Kate presented an all-important infographic of ‘The Food Supply Landscape: a Function Map’ (q.v. The Birmingham Food Council), which showed a very detailed visual description from Primary Production to Secondary Production and to Consumption. Kate described this detailed infographic very well, though it was difficult to cover all its aspects in the time allowed for the presentation. This is a crucial, very clever, and comprehensive overview of our food system*. Of interest, and central to the problem of food supply/poverty, as the presentation pointed out, is that more thought should be given to nutrition and quality of food and soil rather than just quantity of food/supply.

From a Climate Change perspective, reference was also made to the transport of food around the world indicating that local growth of food was preferable in a seasonal pattern.

A dynamic discussion ensued as a result of some of the comments left in the ‘Chat’ function as well as questions asked directly via Zoom.

A point that was raised by an attendee related to the benefit of ‘social’ eating as a way of battling food inequality and poverty that can affect members of society who are socially isolated and/or on the lower income scale, e.g., older people and underprivileged groups and children. The preventative and well-being value of food is well recognised in social care. Concentrating on the issue of Obesity and food over-supply can mask the issue of Malnutrition and food under-supply. Obesity can however also be associated with Malnutrition.

Although the presentation concentrated on food supply in the UK, the issue of the global nature of food supply both in sourcing of food as well as its distribution was tackled in discussion.

This online Zoom event was well attended with 63 recorded attendees, many of them contributing to the on-line ‘Chat’ function and posing questions at the end of the presentation.

In conclusion, the event was very well received. It was very informative, with a great speaker and positive engagement with the audience. There was a good variety of presentation materials and style resulting in an ensuing lively discussion. It may be possible to pick up on a few points from this presentation as well as suggestions from the audience as a focus for future presentations.