What Part Does Food Play in Placemaking?

Every month, at breakfast, Partisan hosts a social event. This is an opportunity for professionals connected to the built environment to meet informally, and exchange thoughts, opinions and insights.

At the Partisan social, we normally break the ice with a lead topic for discussion, from one of our guests.

This month Jemma Hynes, CEO of Food Sync, led a discussion about the role of food systems in placemaking.

The Role of Food in Communities

The University of Oxford has published research which reveals that the more people eat with others, the more they are likely to be happy and satisfied with their lives.

Communal eating increases social bonding, and helps people feel embedded in a community.

How does this translate to placemaking?

There has to be a supportive eco-system at community level, which includes food retail.

A successful, local, food supply chain feeds outlets, people and the local economy, while also generating social value.

The issue in the UK is that supply chains are not necessarily this locally focused or community-led.

This leads to issues with quality of produce, as well as variation and a lack of healthier choices.

Micro and Macro Supply Chains

The food supply chain operates at different scales, micro and macro. Currently, many local suppliers are not in a position to meet the demand of local food businesses, who therefore cannot rely on a single supplier of locally-sourced produce.

At the same time, various types of fast food, such as pizzas and takeaways, have more instant consumer appeal.

From a business perspective, they can produce these dishes at a low cost, with an easy source of supply involving relatively simple ingredients.

Within a placemaking context, creating a supportive, local food eco-system would require allocating land and re-purposing buildings for food and beverage (F&B) production.

This is at the micro level, and it requires a strategic approach, involving policy decisions such as local planners apportioning a percentage rule of building use. There is also the issue of licencing, and whether this needs relaxing or changing.

Education and Support for F&B

F&B businesses require support and guidance, which in turn will enable them to give communities the support they need to thrive.

Different regions have different demographics, so selling food in one area will require alternative approaches to selling it in another. Plus there are local issues to do with food poverty and what types of food people find affordable.

The Upstream Challenge

There should be a greater focus on reducing waste. Reducing waste can give F&B businesses more room for manoeuvre, because the less food that is wasted, the less they need to manufacture to meet demand.

However, reducing waste is about changing consumer behaviours, which comes back to food in communities, and how shared community values towards food might impact on attitudes towards waste.

Can the national diet shift in local terms? How would this impact positively on food production and supply, and on the environment?

Currently, in the GMCA’s Greater Manchester Spatial Framework food does get much of a mention. But in fact, food continues to be an important factor in placemaking and regeneration across the North West.

It should also be a focus of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

Food Sync and Food Systems

Food Sync is a multi-disciplinary business concerned with food science and technology, health and wellbeing and economic and strategic development.

It works with businesses and organisations, including the public sector, helping areas build sustainable food economies while creating social value through its work.

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