Working for five a day is an academic research project based in the disciplines of Sociology and Geography. It is hosted in the UK, in the University of Bristol’s School for Sociology, Politics and International Studies.
The UK is currently in a process of deep food system change with transforming international trade relations, new domestic food and agricultural policies and significant changes in immigration regulation. These factors, alongside climate change and a global pandemic make it vital to consider carefully how those who secure our fresh fruit and vegetable production are faring in this period of food system reconfiguration.
The concerns that this project speaks to are many. Concerns over crops left in the fields, grower livelihoods, debt and health, alongside struggles faced by workers and migrant workers, are understood as connected and part of systemic effects that impact not only specific actors but often have knock on effects across the food system. Despite some automation, most fresh fruit and vegetable production is labour intensive, requiring a lot of human work. Ultimately, the security of fresh fruit and vegetables produced in the UK and elsewhere, depends on the social sustainability of all those who work within it.
The city of Bristol is the starting point for this project, and this urban starting point is used to explore how the fresh food and vegetables of one city are produced, and by whom, at commercial scale. The questions the project explores are of national, and international relevance.
Ultimately, Working for five a day, aims to investigate how fruit and vegetable work is socially valued, and how human insecurity is produced among agri-food workers and reproduced in differing ways within the global food system. Below are the guiding questions.
- How do workers and producers, be they migrant workers, native-born workers or family or business producers, shoulder the risks of the changing food system differentially and in common with one another?
- How are workers valued and undervalued (financially and socially) within the UK food system?
- How do urban consumers characterise fruit and vegetable workers? How do rural communities characterise workers and how do attitudes differ by region of production?
- In the context of the Covid 19 pandemic and the Brexit process, how is the workforce composition changing?
- How does insecurity for workers and producers (if found) contribute to the overall scenario for food security in the UK?
This research project is funded by the Bristol Academy as a multi-year postdoctoral research project awarded to the principal investigator, Dr Lydia Medland. Dr Medland has international experience of researching horticultural work from a sociological and food systems perspective. For a full list of her academic publications please see here. Professor Bridget Anderson is also formally and actively involved in the project as the project mentor. She has extensive experience of directing and publishing research in the social sciences. The principal investigator and project mentor are supported by a broad and friendly team of colleagues and collaborators at the University of Bristol and beyond. Further information on the principal investigator and the project mentor are below.
Principal Investigator: Dr Lydia Medland.
Lydia Medland seeks to gain deep understanding of food systems and the challenges for all those working within them. She has a PhD from the University of Bristol in Global Political Economy and has published in the fields of social science, geography, and law. She previously worked as a lecturer at the University of Bath. Her key publications to date include, ‘There is no time’: Agri-food internal migrant workers in Morocco’s tomato industry, in the Journal of Rural Studies, which documents her fieldwork in Morocco, Working for social sustainability: Insights from a Spanish organic production enclave in the Journal of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, which covers her fieldwork researching organic farms within industrial scale production in Spain, and Misconceiving ‘seasons’ in global food systems: The case of the EU Seasonal Workers Directive, published in the European Law Journal, which gives a critical assessment of the EU framework for seasonal labour migration.
Project Mentor: Professor Bridget Anderson
Bridget Anderson’s work is based in the academic discipline of Sociology. She is the author of, Us and Them? The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Controls (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Doing the Dirty Work? The Global Politics of Domestic Labour (Zed Books, 2000) and has co-edited other books. She is Director of Migration Mobilities Bristol, an interdisciplinary specialist research institute dedicated to new thinking on people and movement. She is former Director of COMPAS, the University of Oxford’s Centre of Migration, Policy and Society. Bridget also has a personal interest in food and its context, and has co-published the historical cookbook with a personal background, Burma: Food, Family and Conflict.
The broader research agenda of the principal investigator, in particular in relation to the University of Bristol Food Justice Network, also leads to other related activities and initiatives. These will appear in the Projects section of this website, and sometimes in Lastest. They support the overall investigation of food security and food work, but do not contribute to the core research and publications of this project which appear under the Research section.
Thanks to Gloucester Road Fruits for permission to photograph the fruit and vegetables that appear in the banner at the top of this website.