The ResULTS project focuses on beef and sheep production in upland regions of Northern England and Scotland. We are interested in how livestock farmers and the rural systems that depend on them adapt to adverse events such as climate change, reduced subsidies and price fluctuations, and in what effect their adaptations might have on local, national and global food system.
We will produce in-depth studies of the Yorkshire Dales, Scottish Borders, Orkney and the Outer Hebrides. Our project aims to study the whole food system, beginning with livestock production and ending with what people eat.
As the social scientist on the project, I will be focusing on consumption and, in particular, on the ways in which people acquire food, and what kinds of food are available in their area. I plan to talk to people about where they get their food from: how they shop for food, and where it comes from, for example, is any of it produced locally?
Acquiring food is often more difficult for remote and rural communities, and a more restricted range of food is usually available in these areas. Supermarket chains dominate food retailing in the UK: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrison’s account for 70% of all food purchases. This means that their decisions about where to locate stores, what products to stock and what prices to charge policies have an important influence on food access and availability for all British consumers. Maps of retail provision in Scotland (Scottish Govt 2007) show that larger food stores are concentrated in the urban areas – where most of the population lives (see notes) – and in remote and rural areas people rely more heavily on smaller outlets. This kind of research does not seem to have been carried out for England and Wales, but the situation is likely to be broadly similar.
In recent University of Edinburgh research on food shopping in the Scottish Islands (Marshall et al., 2017, see notes), interviewees described how, in order to shop for food in supermarkets, they had to travel longer distances than on the mainland. This meant planning their trips carefully to fit in with their other commitments – work and childcare – and with variable store delivery schedules. If they could not drive to supermarkets, then people had to rely on local shops which often had a more restricted range of goods (particularly less fresh produce), and higher prices. However, residents of these communities valued their local shops highly. They provided a range of services beyond selling food, and so were seen as an important part of the community.
The ResULTS project aims to understand the links between food production and consumption in some of the remote, rural and sparse areas of the UK. Studying how people in these communities shop, and perhaps source food in other ways, as one part of a larger project will help us to understand how changes in livestock farming might affect how people shop and, therefore, eat in the local area, the whole of the UK, and beyond.
Dr. Isabel Fletcher – Senior Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh
In Scotland, approximately one-third of the population lives in rural communities and 6% in remote, often island, communities; in England and Wales, less than a fifth of the population (17%) lives in rural communities and 1% in sparse settings.
Marshall D, Dawson J & Nisbet L (2018) Food access in remote rural places: consumer accounts of food shopping, Regional Studies, 52 (1), pp. 133-144.
© 2018. ResULTS