As it happened: 2017 Summer School

We’ll be posting daily updates here from the 2017 Summer School. You can also follow the conversation live on Twitter (#IFSTAL), Facebook or LinkedIn.

*End of Summer School update: it’s all over now, thank you to all the participants, speakers, facilitators, and our hosts, the University of Warwick. A brilliant, thought-provoking, inspiring week. Safe travels home everyone, enjoy a well-learned rest.*

Download the 2017 Summer School Booklet.

Read other blog posts about the Summer School.

Sign up for IFSTAL 2017-18.

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Day 6: Friday 7 July 2017 – Project presentations

The students were assigned to small groups, tasked with addressing real-life issues set by a variety of organisations. They were allocated some time over the course of the week to work on their projects and produce a short report. Today they presented their work to the rest of the group, and asked to provide some reflections on how the projects went. They also gave and received feedback from each other, drawing on skills they had learned earlier in the week.

The teams tackled big questions and challenging remits, all requiring a process of learning, defining and framing of issues, within an interdisciplinary team.

They showed great confidence in sharing their work in progress, without relying on everything being polished or finished. These big problems are complex and not arrived at easily, it’s often the journey that helps us find the solutions. The teams utilised a variety of presentation tools and methods with lots of energy, humour and well-researched content. They showed great ability to produce impressive innovative models and original ideas.

They were able to get to grips with a complex set of topics in a really short space of time, feeding off different perspectives, and managing to enjoy it throughout.

All in all brilliant presentations, very impressive work ethic and boldness displayed by all the teams.

Annabel de Frece, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, City University London.

Day 5: Thursday 6 July 2017 – Applying skills in the workplace

It’s not your usual Thursday morning when John Lennon, horse meat, sushi conveyer belts and 38 litres of water required to make a cup of tea are discussed even before first coffee break. We invited an eclectic mix of food sector experts to present an insight into their ways of effecting change on the system and their fascinating career pathways.

Giles Chapman from the National Food Crime Unit clarified the meaning of “food crime” and the investigative mindset required for the job.

The inimitable Craig Sams of Green & Black’s fame showcased his organic journey from Whole Foods to fairtrade chocolate and regeneration of the global soil.

The UK sushi pioneer Caroline Bennett from Moshi Moshi described the state of global fish stocks and her mission to create a fair and traceable fishmonger, Sole of Discretion.

Cranfield-based hydrologist Professor Tim Hess gave us an insight into the life of an academic and his quest for best practice and responsibility in the food system’s use of water.

After a carousel of discussions with each of the speakers, the Summer School participants skipped into their project teams buoyed and inspired by the possibilities for change.

Rosina Borrelli, IFSTAL Workplace Engagement Lead.

Day 4: Wednesday 5 July 2017 – Field Trips

A key component of the IFSTAL Summer School is to explore the food system from different perspectives. We took the students out to some local organisations to see first-hand the food system in operation.

The first group of students and members of the IFSTAL team was taken on a tour of Abbey Home Farm, Cirencester. Abbey Home Farm is a 650 acre organic farm which has diversified its business to grow and sell its own produce, educate the public and engage with local conservation. We were taken on a tour by John Newman, the farm manager, around a small part of the farm including the polytunnels, where vegetables are grown, and visited some of the cattle and poultry bred on the farm.

After having an organic lunch at the farm the group headed to the Trussell Trust Coventry Foodbank distribution centre. Here Hugh McNeill, Project Manager, took us on a tour of the warehouse and shared some shocking facts, such as that the Coventry food bank had fed 85,000 people since they started in 2011; 15,300 in the last year (2016/17). Interestingly the most donated foods are pasta, beans and soup, while they have a shortage of tinned fish and meat.

It was encouraging to hear how the organisation engages in a number of activities beyond food parcels, including tools and education in tackling debt, clothes and advice.

The second group also visited a farm in the morning – Old Pastures Farm in Hampton Lucy – which belongs to Valefresco Valefresco produce a range of speciality salad crops at Hampton Lucy many of which are destined for processors and will be used as ingredients for bagged salads. They include a range of coloured lettuce, endive and land cress (similar to watercress but grown in soil rather than water). Whilst most of Valefresco’s crops are grown in the soil, either outdoors or in polytunnels, they are also pioneering the use of a vertical hydroponic system for growing pak choi and herbs within a polytunnel. We discussed with our hosts, Nick Mauro (Director) and Steve Nickells (agronomist), many aspects of crop production, including the water supply for irrigation and soil management and also the relationship between growers, processors and multiple retailers. We were lent some very stylish hats and jackets to increase our visibility whilst walking round the farm

After a quick lunch of broccoli and stilton soup and sandwiches at Warwick’s Wellesbourne Campus, Group two’s second visit of the day was to Sainsbury’s Distribution Centre at Hams Hall near Coleshill. We were introduced to the Centre through a short presentation and then split into small groups for a tour around the site – again wearing stylish jackets! During the tour we learnt about all aspects of the distribution process, including the logistics and challenges of transporting food and other items to the large stores and smaller convenience stores within the Centre’s ‘patch’. After looking at transport we went into the building and visited the various zones where items delivered by suppliers are re-sorted for delivery to the stores. There were separate zones for fresh produce, chilled items (both pretty cold – but refreshing on such a warm day) and an ambient zone for items that don’t need to be kept cool. Some of the process is automated but the majority of tasks are undertaken by the Sainsbury’s team of several hundred employees. The Distribution Centre ‘stores’ very little and the fresh produce and chilled items in particular are on the premises for less than 24 hours, most travelling to the stores during the night. Many thanks to Paul Woods, the General Manager of the Centre and Celia Cole, Sustainable & Ethical Sourcing at Sainsbury’s, who organised the trip.

Overall we had a great day out – focusing on a proportion of the supply chain – and learnt a lot from our very knowledgeable hosts.

Kelly Reed, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, University of Warwick (group 1) and Rosemary Collier, Academic Lead for the Warwick Global Research Priority (GRP) on Food, University of Warwick (group 2).

Day 3: Tuesday 4 July 2017 – Communications and skills

We have had another fantastic day at the IFSTAL Summer School – today’s theme was communication, and in typical IFSTAL style, was all about multi-disciplinary, multi-perspective thinking.

We thought about what food advertising and social marketing can tell us about good and bad communication and tried to apply some of the good techniques to the communication of our own research – a shout out to Public Health England’s Change4Life, Cadbury’s Gorilla advert and the remarkable Pengest Munch all of which taught us some valuable lessons about different modes, methods and motives of communication.

We stepped out of our comfort zone (in our stockinged feet) and into the Business School’s Create Space with Warwick’s Dr Jonathan Heron to think about the physical skills needed for good communication (don’t forget to breathe!) and the ways in which we can dismantle disciplines and communicate across them. Building on yesterday’s session with Professor Ray Ison we discussed the importance of recognising the non-linear nature of communication and the importance of both listening and talking.

We finished the day putting our newly learnt communication skills to use, working on our team projects and presenting them to the rest of the group. Now we’re looking forward to some very interesting field trips tomorrow!

Rebecca Wells, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, City University London and Lauren Blake, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, LCIRAH.

Day 2: Monday 3 July 2017 – Systems thinking

“Why is it that when we think about the digits on a hand, we so often define them as five objects, but seldom focus on the four important evolutionary relationships between them – the ability for thumb to oppose finger.”

Today was systems thinking day, and with the help of Professor Ray Ison, from the Open University, we were guided on a sweeping journey through the history of systems thinking. We quickly cut to the core of the topic, and were challenged to uncover what the idea of a food system meant to us individually, and how we’ve used it in the past. The abstract concepts and shifts in perspective were grounded and made accessible through Professor Ison’s extensive experience of working on agricultural systems, and lots of group exercises.

Harley Pope, IFSTAL Education Coordinator, University of Reading.

Day 1: Sunday 2 July 2017 – Introductions

There’s glorious sunshine in Coventry for the first day of the IFSTAL Summer School. After arrivals and registration we all gathered together in the Humanities Studio for some short introductions and ice breakers. Saher Hasnain led the group through a few activities where we had to place ourselves on an imaginary spectrum, with questions including ‘where in the world are you from’ (place yourself on an imaginary map of the world), ‘where do you sit in the food systems spectrum’ (from production to consumption and natural science to humanities/social science), ‘do you like Marmite?’

In an informal atmosphere, everyone was ready to take part and the room was quickly buzzing. It was clearly an excellent way for everyone to get to know each other, to find out about each and a way simply to get us talking. It was also wonderful to see such a great diversity of people’s backgrounds from geographic spread to academic discipline/interest. Some of our assumptions were tested … Marmite was a contentious issue, people don’t just have love/hate relationships with it, but in fact some people are in the middle or have never tried it at all. Interesting also to see how people challenging the idea of having to place themselves on any particular place on the spectrum (we are systems thinkers after all!).

(Students were asked to bring in a food or food-related item which represents something about them or their background. Ligia Mutemba, an MSc student from the University of Reading, brought in cassava)

Excellent first day, bring on day two!

Michael Panagopulos, IFSTAL Knowledge and Communications Officer.

One Response

  1. […] and engagement with the program during the year (updates from the 2017 Summer School can be viewed here). The Summer School will consolidate food system knowledge and enhanced policy understanding, and […]

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