Funding success for University research projects aiming to transform the food system

University of Liverpool researchers are part of two major inter-disciplinary research projects funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of its Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund Programme.


Dr Mark Green and Dr Charlotte Hardman are part of a £1.6m study entitled ‘FIO-FOOD, Food Insecurity in people living with Obesity – improving sustainable and healthier food choices in the retail FOOD environment’, that will investigate obesity and food insecurity, led by the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute.

Aiming to improve sustainable and healthier food choices in retail settings for people living with obesity and food insecurity, the collaborative study will, for the first time, bring together consumers, policy makers, charities, food producers, processors and retailers, as well as expert academics to co-develop and test strategies that can support future changes in the food system.

Dr Mark Green, said: “For this study we will recruit participants from across the UK and those participants will be sharing their experience of living with obesity and food insecurity. We will also be analysing UK consumers’ food experiences in a variety of ways including focus groups, an online survey, a national digital intervention study, and historic, anonymous data from supermarket customers”.

“This will allow us to develop practical solutions to promote sustainable and healthier food choices for this group of people. It is incredibly exciting to be involved in this project and I very much look forward to working with this excellent team on this extremely important topic.”

The project also involves researchers from University College London, Leeds Beckett University, University of Leeds, and Robert Gordon University.

‘Thinking beyond the can’

Dr Charlotte Hardman is part of a £1.8m study entitled ‘Thinking beyond the can’: Mainstreaming UK-grown beans in healthy meals (BeanMeals) that will investigate how UK grown beans can help tackle the issue of HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) food, led by the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford.

Based in Leicestershire, the BeanMeals project starts with the question of how to promote healthy diets through bean-based school meals and works backwards through the supply chain to bean processing and growing. Crossing research disciplines with innovation topics, the project aims to determine how best to bring about systemic innovation, as well as analyse the health, environment and enterprise benefits of the transformed system.

The research team brings together expertise from UK research institutions (Universities of Oxford, Liverpool, Hull, Warwick, and Hertfordshire), spanning areas such as food systems, agroeconomics, systemic innovation, food policy, legume breeding, public health and behaviour change.

Dr Charlotte Hardman, said: “BeanMeals has the potential to create wide-ranging impact, from systemic innovation in institutional catering and home-cooking through the use of healthier ingredients, to new public procurement practices and increased demand for locally grown products”.

“The project will tackle multiple issues in our food system including poor diet, rising levels of obesity, and the high environmental impact of food production. It is very exciting to be working in this strong team of academics and local and national stakeholders to develop innovative ways of promoting healthy diets with bean-based meals to school children and their families.”

The funding, which has been awarded to 11 research projects in total, is the latest investment made by UK Research and Innovation as part of its Transforming UK Food Systems Strategic Priorities Fund Programme, adding to the earlier £29 million awards across four large consortia projects and a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).