IFSTAL PUBLIC LECTURE – Food Systems and the Media, Monday 5th December 2016

Sheila has been a food journalist for over three decades, beginning work as an editor and writer at the New York based magazine, Food Monitor. For over 20 years she has worked on The Food Programme, first as reporter, then producer and now presenter. Her investigative work has won many awards including the Glaxo Science Prize, Caroline Walker award and several Glenfiddich Awards.

In this lecture Sheila reflected on the changing nature of how the media engages with food, drawing on her experiences in the industry.

This was a public  lecture, taking place at the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, and was livestreamed from there to our partner institutions:



Some people standing and some sitting at the Oxford LaunchWe launched IFSTAL as it enters its second year on the 18th of October 2016. We had gatherings at Warwick, Reading and Oxford Universities, as well as a joint event at City, University of London, with LCIRAH. We estimate that about 250 people attended the lauches altogether – for those who did, thanks for coming and we hope you had a good evening. For those that didn’t, here are a few photos to give you a flavour of what we got up to.


In Oxford we had a stand-up-sit down round of introductions. Here are the MSc students in the room standing up and introducing themselves. We were pretty surprised to find that in response to the question, ‘have you ever been to an abattoir’, at least 7 people stood up – audience members had visited them in Puerto Rico, the Pacific Islands, Namibia and the UK.


In Warwick the evPeople networking at the Warwick Launchening kicked off with brief introductions from and networking with workplace visitors from WRAP, Coventry Fair Share and Innovation for Agriculture among others.



Reading students sitting in a lecture theatre





Reading launched with good representation from the schools of Agriculture, Policy and Development (APD), Food and Nutritional Sciences (FNS), and the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences (SAGES), among others – over 80 students attended the event!


London students sitting in a lecture theatre



In London the livestreaming was followed by a panel discussion between Professor Jane Dixon at City, Professor Peter Mollinga from SOAS/LCIRAH and Professor Bhavani Shankar at SOAS and RVC – a great mix of experience in sociology, applied economics, development studies and public health, all reflecting on the role of interdisciplinarity.




July 2016

The IFSTAL Summer School ran from the early evening of Sunday 3rd July through to the afternoon of Friday the 8th of July, and took place at Reading University. Thirty students participated in an engaging week of workshops, talks, field trips and presentations.

Day one saw participants learning from Professor Gerald Midgely, Professor of Systems Thinking at  Hull University. Professor Midgely is widely published in the field of soft systems, and we enjoyed a lecture and workshop on the history of systems thinking and exploring ways of mapping and analysing a food system problem.

© Mim Saxl Photography, www.mimsaxl.com
© Mim Saxl Photography, www.mimsaxl.com

The second day focussed on communication and how we do this with complex issues. Here we had Andy Ridway from the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, come and deliver a workshop. This was followed by shorter talks from three food system practitioners working on communicating to different audiences – Oxfam’s supporters and policy maker audiences; multiple national agricultural policy communities; and sugar supply chains.





On the third day we got out and about, visiting farms, retailers and a food waste processing facility. Students got to meet practitioners in their place of work and apply and interrogate some of the ideas learnt in the summer school and on their courses.




Day four involved applying some of the skills learnt over the summer school in a workshop led by Professor Tim Lang on policy briefings. This was structured around policy issues introduced by NGO, government and development practitioners. In the evening we celebrated the summer school with a formal dinner.



The final day saw groups of students present their summer school project and receive detailed feedback on this. These projects were set by our visiting practitioners and represented real world problems facing organisations and individuals working in the food system. We topped off the summer school with a talk from Guy Watson, Founder and Director of Riverford Organic Farmers.




June 2016

Lauren Blake and Barbara Haesler attended the Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy week in Addis Ababa where they ran a workshop on food systems and qualitative research methods. LCIRAH – one of the IFSTAL collaborators – co-organised the event, the aim of which was to facilitate learning and sharing among the global community of interdisciplinary researchers and research-users working on agriculture and food systems for improved nutrition and health. You can read more about this here.


June 2016

Kelly Reed, the Warwick IFSTAL Education Coordinator, presented a poster at the Cambridge Conference on Global Food Security. She is highlighting the role of IFSTAL in responding to the need for a workforce trained in thinking and acting systemically in relation to the food system’s problems, and reflecting on how we have done in our first year. You can read more about this here.


June 2016

The OxTALENT awards recognise members of Oxford University who have made innovative use of digital technology in teaching or research communication. IFSTAL entered into the ‘Innovative Teaching with Technology’ category which looked at how entrants had used technology other than Weblearn (the University’s virtual learning environment) to address a particular educational challenge. Judges were a peer reviewing panel, and they looked for qualitative/quantitative evidence of impact and possible applicability of the innovation to other disciplines. We went on to win an ‘honourable mention‘ with the judges ‘impressed at what we had achieved in our first year’.


Supermarketisation: the unfolding of a cultural economy process
May 2016

Jane Dixon, Senior Fellow at the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University, and a Leverhulme Trust Visiting Professor in the Centre for Food Policy at City, University of London, ran a webinar for IFSTAL students. This was a great chance for students and staff from across the IFSTAL universities to learn from faculty working at an IFSTAL partner institution. If you are an IFSTAL member you can access the webinar on the IFSTAL portal from  here.


Food for thought
May 2016

On Friday 13th May 2016 the University of Warwick hosted ‘Food For Thought’ in the Students Union, bringing together a wide range of fantastic speakers to discuss issues of food waste and wellbeing. Read more here.

Organic movements, markets and systems
May 2016

On Wednesday 4th May 2016, Warwick University’s Food GRP held a workshop to discuss the development of organic production.Dr Michael Haedicke of Drake University, USA, Dr Matt Reed of CCRI at the University of Gloucester and Dr Tom Macmillan of the Soil Association spoke. Read more here.


April 2016

BSA Magazine2

IFSTAL Education Coordinators, Raquel Ajates and Rebecca Wells wrote an article for the BSA magazine introducing the IFSTAL programme and its innovative approach to teaching and learning.

“Inter-university research projects are common in higher education, but not inter-university teaching across programmes and disciplines, and this is an area for collaboration it sets out to explore and maximise”

“This is not just about qualitative and quantitative traditions working together; it is also about bringing different epistemological and ontological approaches to the table to shed light on the complex prism that food is. Being humble about our disciplines’ power to improve the food system, while at the same time celebrating different contributions and becoming aware of diverse disciplinary approaches, are indispensable pieces of the convoluted jigsaw puzzle of food”

You can read the whole article by clicking on the photo above.


Drivers in the food system and strategies for change
February 2016

Prof Tim Lang was online on Monday 15th Feb to discuss your questions and comments on the topics covered in Lecture 5 “Drivers in the food system” and Lecture 6 “Strategies for change”. You can read a transcription of the discussion here.