This is a blog by Bec Sanderson

Calling all teachers, researchers and campaigners with an interest in values and food!

In September we kicked off Food Values: a nine month action research project with Organic Centre Wales. The goal of this project is to explore what food education based on values looks like, and we’ll do this through a series of research seminars and public food events around Wales that run until June 2015.

The first research seminar was a big success, bringing academics and practitioners to Aberystwyth University to discuss food values and good education practice.  We talked about how the values framework helped us understand what worked well in the past, and why. A good food event is participative, fun and creative (everyone has something to say about food!); it makes the social relationships visible by revealing the real people and places involved in getting the food to our tables, and it situates food issues, for example around security and sovereignty, firmly in the context of wider social change.

Taken by Christian, aka net_efekt, 2008, licensed under Creative Commons

Taken by Christian, aka net_efekt, 2008, licensed under Creative Commons

Done well, these practices engage ‘intrinsic’ values - Self-direction, Universalism and Benevolence, and we can already point to plenty of good examples of this in action (from Edible Schools work by  This Is Rubbish and Incredible Edible growing projects, to RCE projects such as OPEDUCA, where school children in Brittany learned about food systems by asking questions, doing research and mapping the results). When we look at examples like this through a psychological lens, we can see the benefits of consciously linking food education to intrinsic values, and make recommendations accordingly.

You can read a summary of the first seminar here, from the Wales RCE food group.

Our hope over the next few months is to produce a toolkit for educationalists working in food sustainability. We’ll have the chance to round up ‘good practice’ examples and test the recommendations for ourselves by hosting our own educational events, and we’ll use this as an opportunity to develop meaningful metrics for evaluating food projects.

Alongside the toolkit, we’re working on a research report that covers the theoretical background to this work. We’ll show how values help us understand food behaviour at three levels: individual (e.g. personal decisions to choose organic, fair-trade or vegetarian food), community (e.g. the role of food in our local economies and relationships) and society (e.g. the industrial and political structures that shape food production and distribution). Our positioning paper starts exploring this and can be downloaded here.

If you’d like to be involved in this project, just get in touch.