£6m project to investigate role of food in child and environmental health

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UK universities will be leading a £6m project to study food and health with an aim to improve the health of future generations and the planet.

The new five-year research programme, called ‘Transformations to Regenerative Food Systems’ (TReFS), will explore how regenerative farming, which promotes biosystems health, can help achieve both healthier populations and a healthier environment in the future.

Creating a healthier future

Teams of researchers from Manchester, York, Leeds, Oxford, City and Cranfield Universities, and 21 partner organisations will also look at healthy eating interventions in schools and nurseries, food retailing, and food procurement in order to address issues such as childhood obesity, sustainability in agriculture, and global warming.

Data scientist, Professor Sarah Bridle from the University of Manchester, said: “Food contributes a quarter of all climate change and rising – at the same time, food is likely to be seriously affected by the changing climate – and we have rising health problems associated with our food choices.

“So, there’s a huge problem. I think it is fantastic that the UK is investing in finding solutions – it is particularly important that these funds encourage collaboration across the sciences, including social scientists and experts in business models. I’m really excited to be bringing my data science background to work in a fantastic interdisciplinary team – with the aim of transforming to a regenerative food system – not just reducing damage but making the world a better place.”

Professor Guy Poppy, Programme Director of the Transforming the UK Food System SPF Programme said: “Never before has the role that the food system plays in both environmental and human health been so centre-stage. Major issues facing humanity such as addressing climate change and building back better post-COVID will be essential in improving health and wellbeing.

“Every single person in the UK will benefit from this research and we will ensure that the best evidence is generated to answer and offer solutions to the questions which matter and the decisions which need to be made in Transforming the UK food system.”

The project is part of a larger £24m programme which will also explore hydroponics and researchers will look at how transforming food systems in communities dealing with health and environmental inequalities can improve lives. Four projects have been funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF).

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