University of Sheffield
UAMH event shining a light on British research dedicated to tackling global and local food inequality
Centres of expertise, like the Institute for Sustainable Food at the University of Sheffield pioneer British efforts to fight global malnutrition. Food insecurity is one of the greatest challenges of our time, so it is vital innovation and excellence is shared and celebrated.

That was precisely the purpose of the event UAMH hosted in partnership with the University of Sheffield and The Food Foundation during British Science Week (8-17 March 2024).

Parliamentary candidates from the major political parties across the city of Sheffield were invited to the event, Tackling Local and Global Food Inequality. Abtisam Mohamed, Labour candidate for Sheffield Central, attended.

The event begun with a tour of the Arthur Willis Environment Centre and the Sir David Read Controlled Environment Facility, otherwise known as the Growth Chambers. Situated beneath a campus car park, this vast underground facility is one of the biggest bioscience groups in the world.

Conditions within the chambers mimic past, present and future climate scenarios, from the polar ice caps to the tropics. Scientists work out how plants respond to drought and temperature conditions at a molecular level. Levels of CO₂ are monitored constantly and can be manipulated. This is a hugely important focus of study since the effect of rising CO₂ on vegetation is unknown.

The tour was fascinating. Guided by the Institute’s Professor Julie Gray and Professor Jurriaan Ton we peered at plants in controlled laboratory environments, from shuttered mirrored micro labs to glass houses and plastic tents, as scientists explained their work. We heard about analysing the exchange between plants and fungi in soil, photosynthesis and water loss in genetically modified wheat, rice, and maize, and identifying every gene in lettuce to establish disease resistance.

Established in 2019 to meet the global challenges of food security and sustainability with evidence-based solutions, as its Co-Director Professor Peter Jackson explained, the Institute for Sustainable Food’s mission was evident in the talks presented on its projects.

Dr Moaed Al Meselmani told us about the Desert Garden, a project in Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan where crops are grown hydroponically in old mattresses. Professor Dorothea Kleine explained how international collaboration between grass-roots organisations, research groups and policymakers championed diversity and inclusion in projects.

Selina Trueherz talked about ShefFood, a local partnership between public agencies, businesses, individuals, academic and community organisations committed to creating a more sustainable local food system. Next Dr Gregory Cooper vicariously took us to the sub-continent and a project facilitating the availability of nutrient-dense food in markets in India. Ollie Chesworth explained Dr Megan Blake's Food Ladders model, while Dr Pamela Richardson took us on a whistle stop tour of community food projects in Zimbabwe, an example of which being a youth-led initiative harnessing rabbit urine as fertiliser.

Professor Bhavani Shankar, Professorial Research Fellow in Food Systems, Nutrition and Sustainability brought the talks to a close. Prof Shankar has long championed the need to address food insecurity and inequality and co-led a discussion at last year’s Government Global Food Security Summit.  

Speaking at our event he said: “Food systems are profoundly unequal at every level, which diminishes food security and nutrition. But food systems are interconnected to all our shared values including climate, good health, and welfare. The UK Government should throw its considerable weight behind international efforts to tackle global malnutrition and scale up overseas development assistance (ODA) to ensure more of the foreign aid budget goes on nutrition."

UAMH CEO Jonny Oates said: “Every 11 seconds a child dies of malnutrition. This is an entirely preventable tragedy and fresh thinking, and renewed action are needed to stop it. The UK should take advantage of centres of excellence and innovation, like the Institute for Sustainable Food, by funding research to improve food inequality, food insecurity, address the root causes of malnutrition and mitigate the impact of climate change.”

Abtisam Mohamed, who is a practising lawyer in Sheffield said: “A sustainable food system is important for all communities across the globe. If people do not have necessities where they live, they need to leave. I speak to clients all the time who tell me they loved where they lived and did not want to move. We all have a moral responsibility to play our part. We must do what we can.”









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