Coronavirus: The Importance of food security

The Coronavirus pandemic has shaken the globe. This once in a lifetime disaster has claimed over 100,000 lives globally and continues to do so. Most international crises do not directly lead to job losses, death, economic insecurity or food insecurity. However, this pandemic has trigged all three.

Food security, or insecurity is largely a problem of the developing world. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) defines food security as “existing when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO, 2020).

To put this into context in the developed world, people do not have to grow their own food for survival, or additional sustenance, however, in the developing world this is more common. Smallholders are dependent on their land, and in many cases are not fortunate to have access to supermarkets as those in the developed world do. This month bare shelves brought the long neglected issue of food insecurity to the unaware rich world.

Panic Buying

As grocery items on shelves disappeared, panic further increased. Shelves in supermarkets that were stripped bare of hand sanitiser and handwash the previous week were soon stripped, of toilet rolls, fresh fruit and veg, tinned food, cereals, crisps, meat, fresh and frozen. Supermarkets imposed limits (arguably way too late). Shelves that were restocked by night workers in supermarkets, were quickly stripped bare by shoppers who rushed in when the stores opened.

What all this demonstrated, is that the supply of food, particularly in the end stage, delivery to customer is especially fragile. Whether through online delivery, or in store. The supermarkets have assured the general public that enough food is available which may be true but the delivery of it to consumers is the weak link. It is possible to see supply disrupted by a number of sick delivery drivers causing issues for supermarkets in a region of the country.

Supply of food in the developed world in normal times is rarely a pressing issue. As Tim Laing professor of food policy at London’s City University puts it “panic buying aside, our supermarket shelves are usually full. We have access to a greater range of ingredients at better prices than at any time in human history” (Laing, 2020).

As a researcher on this topic its interesting to see an actual focus on short and long term issues of food security globally.

Laing in his book warns that the UK is food system is “stretched, open to disruption and far from resilient” (Laing, 2020).

Laing goes further to state the bitter reality that faces us ‘we have a massively fragile just-in-time supply chain which could easily collapse; a depleted agriculture sector which produces only around 50% of the food we actually eat, leaving us at the mercies of the international markets; and production methods which are damaging to the environment and human health’ (Laing, 2020).

With UK overeliance on international markets and an inability to grow enough food (due to lack of usable land) for its citizens, which is not solely a UK issue. We have to turn to researching into other means of production and look into altering the means of consumption incrementally.

The food system is fragile, complex and not able to react to the demands of panic buying without interventionist policies, food is very much a finite resource and the production of it even more so. A good thing was at the time of this crisis there were no high rates of food loss present in the UK. This would have put untold strain on the food supply system. The panic buying has now ceased, largely because people have stocks of food to last over two weeks and also because of the restrictions in place at the major supermarkets.

One thing the pandemic is demonstrating is that policymakers must be proactive with regards to the food system, it is not enough for policymakers to take a laissez-faire approach.

More updates on the topic of food security, particularly in this context will be posted here.

References:

Rayner, J. (2020) ‘Diet, health, inequality: why Britain’s food supply system doesn’t work’, The Observer, 22nd March [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/22/tim-lang-interview-professor-of-food-policy-city-university-supply-chain-crisis (Accessed 13 April 2020).

Wood, Z. (2020) ‘Supermarkets ready for a new week of rising to the virus’s challenge’, The Guardian, 29th March [Online]. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/mar/29/supermarkets-ready-new-week-virus-challenge (Accessed 13 April 2020).

Happy 2020!

Happy New Year 2020

Happy New Year 2020

Happy 2020 to all my readers.

I am terribly sorry about the lack of activity this year. I do have a new post in the pipeline ready to publish in around 2 weeks time. Feel free to check out my latest news articles on food security.

There will much more to come on my research interests in the new decade.

I hope everyone has had a Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a Happy New Year. Best wishes for the future 🙂

MSc International Public Policy Graduation

I graduated (again) back in December 2018. Followers of this blog may be aware that I was reading a MSc in International Public Policy at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL). I studied part-time so the masters was over two years. It actually felt pretty swift on my part, it seemed like only a year of study.

Graduation day was amazing. It felt more a culmination of both my BA and Masters combined, so it really made this graduation feel extra special.

I achieved a merit overall which I was happy with. However, I am very aware of the fact that I could have actually got a distinction if I really knuckled down in the first year.

The journey through my masters really awakened my interest in public administration, partly studies of the end stages (implementation and evaluation) and behavioral policy. I am certain that I would like to continue research in either public administration or some policy field. The reason I hold such ambiguity over this is because I have so many fields that I hold a passion for. My journey through this degree has really been responsible for this and I feel much richer for it.

My journey from here involves getting into a stable career and planning for the future. I have some plans but I do not think they should go public just yet.

A video of the entire graduation can be viewed below. Unfortunately, only a edited version is available:

I did mean to publish this earlier but had issues with getting the video online and I have been extremely busy, better late then never! 🙂

30 today

I’m 30 today!

Today’s the day I hit the big 30. Wish me the best for the next 10 years 🙂

Onwards and upwards to the big 40.. eeek.

Over the past few months, I have been busy completing my Masters with graduation on December 19th. I am really looking forward to my second graduation and the plans I have for the future.

Big love to all the loyal readers of my blog.

Why is being housed by the state perceived as a personal failure? Part 1

Social Housing debates are at centre of the political discourse right now, and they rightly should be following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the ongoing UK housing crisis. We need to ask ourselves collectively some very important questions. It is time to move away from the strong doses of individualism we’ve shot ourselves up with and start thinking together as a collective society. No civilised country, can call itself civilised unless people have housing rights which includes having somewhere safe and secure to live, from the richest to the poorest.

I would like to turn attention in this blog post to the following. Listening to Leading Britain’s Conversation (LBC) earlier in the week, tackling the question of social housing. A caller rang in and stated “Why don’t people work to move out a council home. Why do people in this country think the state owes them everything? My parents came to this country in the 1960’s and they worked and they never relied on the state”. This sort of viewpoint in regards to council housing is unfortunately far too common in the UK. It’s rather elementary to put your experiences, or someone else’s, as indicative to what everyone being housed by the state should do, or be doing. The world is extremely complex, no two people are the same, no two groups of people are the same, no two parts of the country are the same, the environment, is the same etc.

The thrust of this blog post though isn’t why some hold such views (as crazy as they are). The caller stated his parents came to the UK in 1960’s and have never relied on the state, that may well be the case but when we read behind this we see the statement holds value judgements. Not everyone is like necessarily like yourself or immediate others. If you are not lucky enough to have come to the country in the 1960’s when jobs were more easy to come by, or are/were more reliant on the state in the sixties because you have less capital you fall into a category that this caller presumably (and we are assuming at this point, has). Statements such as these lead those living on a council estate to fear openly admitting that they do.

‘Social shame’ is present in UK society. This goes for all areas of state dependency, not just social housing.

Grenfell Tower Burning

The Grenfell Tower tragedy highlighted the many failings of UK society. Not just of local government, but by how people who live in social housing are viewed by those who do not or never have resided in social housing. By this I am referring to both citizens and politicians. Those that have never lived in social housing tend to hold positions of power, over those who do. This very imbalance is a danger to British democracy, at a local and national level.

The image of the blackened hull that is Grenfell Tower should wake us all up to the dangers of lack of empathy and understanding. It should also wake us up to the face that we need to think collectively in order to help others out. So we too may lead lives that are happy. The more people in our country that are happy and not living in terrible conditions the better it is for society collectively right?

We also need to focus on power, who has power. Why do they have it? How? We need to forever question what government is doing, and be critical. At both national and local level, here it seems in Kensington and Chelsea local government were/are able to do as they please without very little oversight from anyone with power. The residents were disempowered and nobody was listening. This HAS to change but can only be done by mobilisation of the people on mass. The Grenfell Silent March which begins at Kensington Town hall and ends at the Lancaster West Estate is one way of doing this, as well as remembering the 72 victims of the tragedy. Now with Brexit and many other issues on the central agenda it is critical that this does not fall off the political agenda. The people of North Kensington need our support not just for a brief moment, but a lifetime.

Only if the citizens of the UK mobilise can we rid ourselves of the class system that has plagued the UK for centuries, and finally tackle rising inequality. We cannot go on creating areas where there are shops implicitly stating to one section of society this is not intended for you and just (2 minute’s walk in North Kensington) short drive away there are shops targeting a different class of person. It is clear that this will take time, primarily as the upper classes/elites who actually most likely prefer the status quo are more than likely to be in positions of power.

To make matters worse the new leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council (appears she is not so new). Has NEVER set foot in Grenfell Tower or any other tower block at all. I wonder if you can guess which part of Kensington she is living in? 😕

There is a massive disconnect between those in power, and classes. Nowhere is this more poignant then in North Kensington, with similar cases up and down the country.

Clearly, as someone senior in the council she should have visited the tower, without question. This involves conversing with residents, and investigating the many complaints. If she had actually visited the tower in the many years in which residents were complaining, she would may herself have acted. Her position in my opinion is surely is also untenable.

A clear problem is representation, if someone is unable to take the time to step foot in any tower block in a borough they have a deputy leadership role in, how are they supposed to represent all the people in that borough? Especially if this said person is middle/upper class, visibly. Everyone needs to connect with the people they should be working on behalf of, and that means everyone a borough. Nobody in this council appears (or actually cares) about representation of the poor, traditional working classes or service class. I am aware by simply mentioning the class system in this way, I am partly responsible for upholding it.

And finally, Grenfell Tower has clearly changed how these country perceives social housing. Has it truly touched all corners of society? Probably not. For too long social housing tenants have been held in contempt by councils and housing associations. From my own personal experience of living in 1970’s tower block (featured image on the right) reporting issues to Enfield Council and them not being acted upon, often with that familiar response that KCTMO residents had, stating that nobody else has reported the issue and issues often taking long to resolve.

To conclude. Why is Social Housing considered a failure?

Being housed by the state is considered a failure by some in society because of the increasing lack of empathy, the overuse of value judgements, lack of care, lack of oversight by us collectively towards those less fortunate. The over focus on owning property and gaining wealth through property has led to a destruction of society as we know it. This over focus on purchasing property is partly fuelled by the fact that the rental market is poorly, regulated with poor securities.

We have allowed society UK society has become more individualistic, more about “keeping up with the Jones”. The idea that people live in council homes out of choice rather than need as the LBC caller suggests is another reason. It is clear not everyone is the same, and tarring everyone with the same brush is a problem that a majority of UK society appears to have.

Too little oversight at local government level has allowed for conflict of interest, corruption, or just general disinterest all of which seem to be rarely picked up in any official statistics (which is equally worrying!).

This is a tragedy that we are all responsible for. Lacklustre politicians and indifferent citizens. We are all responsible.

(In a few weeks in the top menu, I will add a link with videos of various events recorded post Grenfell for viewers. For those wishing to understand more about the problems residents faced in Grenfell Tower and the Lancaster West Estate the Grenfell Action Blog is a good place to start.)

First vBlog, and I’m still here!

The first vBlog is online. Discussing my future, my masters/dissertation, my language studies.
Let me know what you think. Got a long way to go getting used to the format of actually speaking in front of a camera and how to video edit.

Next post will be more Political. Stay tuned 🙂

UK General Election 2017

The political landscape has been shaken up as Theresa May u-turned on yet another promise. The conservatives are very far ahead in the polls now and Mrs May announced that she chaired a meeting of the cabinet where they agreed the government should hold a general election on the 8th June.

In the recent local council elections, Labour was trounced. This election holds importance in the type of Brexit the UK faces will largely be decided come June 8th. Most policies enacted by government aren’t as wide sweeping, and certainly aren’t as destructive over the long-run as leaving the European Union will be.

Therefore, it’s not only critical that everyone gets out to the ballot box. It’s also crucial the public make an informed choice on the type of Brexit (as well as type of governance) they want. Already we have felt the sting of food price rises due to a weakened pound. As prices continue to rise and real wages stagnate over several years this will only compound those at the lower end of society. The social cost is high, as will be the political cost of any government who commits to Brexit in the long-run.

Public opinion can change and political parties would do well to remember that. The public should too. The reality is only starting to just starting to bite, when the Brexit pain really starts to dig in it will be interesting who the new bogeyman will become. Will discourse simply deepen its focus on the other? With people saying we didn’t go far enough about rejecting immigration. Will it just continue to be the EU? The conservative, right-wing dominated media controls information in the UK at the moment so we can make a prediction based on that.

These are all pitfalls that will beset any new government, and could make them unelectable at the next election in 2022.

With all this in mind, choosing the next government is not a decision that any voter should take lightly. This is the most important election of the 21st century so far.

Tim Farron, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Main party leaders: Tim Farron, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Appleton’s election tip:

Think wisely about the main issue that affects you. Whether that’s the environment (clean air), the NHS (which certainly is from what I’ve experienced recently at breaking point), Brexit (will affect this, and future generations including tie up government resources and development for years to come), immigration (because a sizeable chunk of the population perceive this to be the issue of our times), disability (major cuts over the past 7 years) or if it’s something I missed. Have look at party manifestos see what party best stands up to fix the issues you face. I’d recommend this approach, and not basing it on personality, a leader is an important part of a political party no doubt but the people behind it and the values/issues they wish to tackle are as important.

This marks my first post since December 2016. I want to continue on a little more but I have just come out of a two night stay at Barnet Hospital due to severe glandular fever. I was not able to swallow at all, only spit and was on the verge of throwing up, my tonsils were killing and almost touching.

Hope all readers are well. I’ll be back posting soon. Even more so as I’ve finished and passed my masters for this year. Just one year left 🙂