Where do we go to eat (now)? Rethinking food systems in disruptive times

Over the last year food has featured in the news in an unprecedented way. The Covid-19 pandemic and the private and policy responses to its impacts have laid bare the vulnerabilities and the injustices of food systems. In the UK, for instance, consumers changed their shopping habits in response to the uncertainties of lockdowns and self-isolation. As the food ‘pipeline’ ran dry, the extent of food poverty in a growing section of society was also brought into light. Intersecting with this were ever new Brexit-related changes and disruptions, from Scottish fishers starting to land their catches in Denmark to lettuces wilting in border car-parks. The material, legal, human, and infrastructural nature of the imagined frictionless “food system” has come into sharp relief.

In this session, we invite contributors to think through the ways in which food geographies can respond to disruptions such as the Covid-19 pandemic. We want to collectively start to make sense of the multiple socio-economic and ecological impacts of disruptions, and think about how these offer an opportunity to resituate food as a crucial societal concern. Specifically, we invite reflection on what disruptions reveal and demand in relation to our current thinking about food systems. Given the challenging nature of the pandemic, and the need to share ideas collectively as scholars, teachers and researchers, the session will combine presentations of papers with a panel discussion. We invite contributions from a range of geographical perspectives, and suggest these as possible prompts:

• What resources can food geographies draw on to conceptualise and mobilise the energies arising from disruptive events?
• In what ways do disruptions challenge existing systems thinking and modes of food system governance?
• How do disruptions resonate with the work on hidden geographies and borders of food?
• In what ways could they and should they inform approaches to future governance and sustainability of food systems?
• How should existing disruptions inform our preparation for and response to the slower emergencies of e.g. climate change and global economic recession?
• What can we learn from the Covid-19 pandemic to inform thinking about geographies of food insecurity, food justice, social equity, well-being, responsibility, accountability and socio-ecological resilience?
• How do responses to disruptions connect, or fail to connect, with the broader issues of ecological transitions or bioregionalism?


Stephen Jones, University of Sheffield
Anna Krzywoszynska, University of Sheffield
Damian Maye, Countryside and Community Research Institute