Regional Food Thinkers seminar: The social and environmental considerations of ethical eating
  • Lecture Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth University

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A Public Health Nutrition seminar by Professor Jane Dixon, Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor, Centre for Food Policy, City University, London.

  • When: 1 February 2017 - 16:00-18:00
  • Where: Lecture Theatre 2, Roland Levinsky Building, Plymouth University

Following the recent public health funding workshop and to promote the Dietetics, Human Nutrition and Health research group, the Institute of Health and Community (IHC) is pleased to host this exciting seminar, bringing together academics (and other interested parties) from Plymouth University, Exeter University and Schumacher College, to celebrate topical food research and action. It is also supported by the Food Research Collaboration which aims to facilitate joint working between academics and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) working to improve the UK food system. 

The event will take the form of a seminar followed by panel (and audience) discussion on this very current and controversial topic. 

The panel will consist of academics from each of the three institutions (Dr Clare Pettinger, Plymouth UniversityProfessor Steffen Boehm, Exeter University; and Dr Tim Crabtree, Schumacher College), This collaboration marks the early stages of the creation of a new regional Food Research network in South West England, to support local food research. 

All academics, students, civil society organisations and members of the public are welcome and this seminar is free to attend, but booking is essential - please book your place via the above link.

Light refreshments will be provided after the event.

Scroll down to view the details of the talk and the speaker biography.

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About the talk

An enormous global effort is underway to halt the rise of diet-related chronic disease. That effort is multi-pronged and multi-scalar and includes: nutrition education campaigns and consumer behaviour change strategies; agricultural research and development to enhance food’s nutrient values; nutrition-led product reformulation; and nutrition science evidence-based public policy. At the heart of these efforts - which can be summarised by the term ‘the nutritionalisation of the food system’ - lie corporate, state-sponsored and professional nutrition. Given the importance of arresting malnutrition in its multiple manifestations why is there a growing resistance to what these bodies are attempting to do?

This presentation begins by describing critical nutrition studies, which brings a range of disciplinary perspectives to analyse the pivotal role of nutrition science in conceiving dietary quality, food-related health risks, the act of eating and the practice of citizenship. An important part of the critique questions the unequal accumulation of power that follow from elevating the nutritional worthiness of foods. 

Less scrutinised are the social and environmental consequences of large numbers of consumers turning to the market to supply the latest nutritional ‘breakthrough’ food. To illustrate this point, the trend to superfoods will be explored especially as they become part of modern industrial diets.

The presentation will conclude by discussing the limitations of nutrition science in guiding the evolution of a sustainable, just and healthy food supply. It will also briefly canvas the emergence of a new field, biological economies, which re-positions food systems as the outcome of a host of bio-physical and social relationships rather than being driven by one or two narrowly conceived sets of values. 

Unlike a nutritionalisation approach, the biological economies approach is grounded in local conditions, and close relations between food producers and consumers. The implications of a biological economies approach for transforming food systems to become more healthy, sustainable and equitable will be thrown open to debate.

About the speaker

For 15 years, Professor Jane Dixon from the Australian National University has been conducting research at the intersection of sociology and public health, with a focus on the cultural, social and health impacts of food system transformations. 

Her fieldwork has taken place mainly within Australia and Thailand. During 2016-17 she is based at the Centre for Food Policy, City University, London, as Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor. She also has associations with the International Institute for Global Health, United Nations University, Kuala Lumpur and the Charles Perkins Centre Health Food Systems Project Node, Sydney University.

Jane has been an advisor to the WHO Western Pacific Regional Office and has written the Food Systems Position Paper for the International Union for Health Promotion and Education.

Jane's publications and research

Professor Jane Dixon (image courtesy: ANU)

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