Good Work for Good Food

An international forum on jobs and skills in global food systems

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Workers harvesting leeks in the UK. Photo credit: Dr Hannah Pitt

25 May 2021 – Online, in three time zones (see the event booking page for details). Associated with the Sustainable Places Institute, Cardiff.

Good Food is healthy, culturally appropriate, accessible for all and produced in ways which are ecologically sustainable and socially just. Good Food Work means decent jobs producing, processing and distributing food which are fairly rewarded and personally rewarding. It means jobs and training accessible to all, in safety and with dignity.

This Forum provided a space for researchers to explore what Good Food Work is and can be. We considered how research could contribute to making food work better. The event was designed to foster interactive discussion and find shared priorities for future action. Speakers from three continents and time zones provided starting points for discussion and to help define priorities.

2021 is the International Year of Fruit and Vegetables so the programme was designed to focus on jobs and work for horticultural production. Researchers focused on other types of food work are also welcome. Key discussions focused on:

Developing a vision for Good Food Work
Understanding food work in the context of the global food system
Considering examples from Australia, New Zealand and Scotland
Unpicking tensions in labour and migration regulations and how they affect labour markets
The prospect of agri-robotics and what this means for existing workers.

The speakers were:

Dr Joanna Howe, Associate Professor in Law at the University of Adelaide and a member of the Australian Government’s Ministerial Council on Skilled Migration.
Dr Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Associate Professor, Food Studies at Syracuse University, researching the interactions between food and racial justice, labor movements, and transnational environmental and agricultural policy.
Dr Lucila Granada, CEO of Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX), a research and policy organisation dedicated to end labour exploitation.
Professor Julie Guthman, Geographer and Professor of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where she conducts research on the conditions of possibility for food system transformation in the US.

Attendees included experts in the area from many different fields and produced a rich international reflection. The event was associated with the project ‘Knowing to Grow’ which is part-funded by Cardiff University and the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. It was also supported by the British Academy through collaboration with the project, ‘Working for ‘five a day’: Risk and resilience in the changing food system,’ led by Dr Lydia Medland.

The organising committee are currently working on an academic paper that reflects on the conference and presents the vision that emerged from it. They are also drafting a shorter collaborative statement that will be open to edit to all those who attended the conference.

Organising team: Dr Hannah Pitt, Cardiff University, UK; Dr Poppy Nicol, Cardiff University, UK; Dr Lydia Medland, University of Bristol, UK; Susanna Klassen, University of British Columbia Canada.