This project explores the changing social context that provisions the UK with its government-recommended ‘5 a-day’ fruit and vegetables. As the UK is undergoing radical change in areas of trade and subsidies, livelihoods are at risk. This also means that the 50% of food produced and consumed in the UK is under question. The project will gather the experiences of farmers, workers and others who help to bring in the harvest. In doing so, the project considers who bears the costs and risks to our food system, differentially, and in common with one another. It asks, what might be done to support them?
Food security begins with those who gain their livelihoods from working in food systems. In horticulture this includes farmers and growers themselves, full time workers, migrant workers and occasional workers involved in harvest labour. Within this project, all those who work in the sector, in any form, are considered vital to building an understanding of the social systems that support fruit and vegetable production in, or in minimal distance to, the places where they are consumed. This research will build a picture of the social sustainability and resilience of the people behind the horticultural sector at a time of seismic change in UK food systems.
Growers and workers in the food system can be almost invisible. This can be partly because consumers and other influential actors are either unaware of their work or think that food producers are different from themselves. Attitudes and ‘othering’ processes can undermine the social and economic positions of workers and also the bargaining power of growers. Retailers, like large supermarket chains, often put pressure on food producers to reduce costs. This can leave producers with less income to pass on to workers and also fewer resources available to improve workers’ conditions. This project will be sensitive to all those in the food system: workers and growers, consumers, buyers, intermediaries and business associations whether these are located in urban or rural areas.