Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Local farmers go global for first free online course in food security

Bill Davies
Professor Bill Davies
Local food producers and farmers have been working with Lancaster University to help tackle the problem of world hunger.

 More than a billion people globally go to bed hungry in 2014 yet population growth means there will be an extra two billion mouths to feed by 2050.

 Distinguished Professor Bill Davies said: “Food security is one of the grand challenges facing the world, there is going to be a crisis but we are not going to just solve it by producing more food. “There all sorts of other considerations and economic issues, all sorts of things not to do with food. For instance, people around the world are getting wealthier and eating more meat and so are using up more resources.”

 He has been exploring these issues for the UK’s first free online course in food security entitled ‘Global Food Security: Addressing The challenge’ which is open to anyone. No qualifications are needed.

 The course includes videos of farmer John Geldard from Plumgarth’s Farm Shop and CafĂ© in Kendal, members of the Olive Branch Food Bank in Lancaster talking about food poverty, as well as the organic producer Growing with Grace from Clapham.

 John Geldar, from Low Foulshaw Farm and Plumgarth’s Farm shop, has his own family farm that he runs with his sons where he has beef, sheep and egg production. He has a farm shop where he sells food from other local producers as well as his farm. He also supplies 18 Asda stores in Cumbria and Lancashire with “local food”.

“From my perspective as a farmer born and bred in this area it is very, very important that consumers recognise and appreciate the effort and everything that goes into producing food and manufacturing it and getting it to them,” he says.

 Kath Willis, project manager from the Olive Tree Food Bank in Lancaster, said she has seen an “astronomical increase” in the past few years, grown from a couple of people wanting food a day to 13-15.

 “Food is at the bottom of pile to a lot of people," she says. "We have many people who come in here with families and they’ve said I haven’t eaten for days.

“When people come in here, if they’ve not got a good diet, you can tell, particularly with the children: they’ve got that pallor about them, you know their diet is lacking in nourishment.”

 The online course will feature the work of Distinguished Professor Bill Davies and his colleagues who developed water saving techniques for agriculture which earned Lancaster University a coveted Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.

“The course will also explore why are younger people turning their backs on agriculture," says the profressor. "How we increase wellbeing and the health of a growing population and why less water, less land and a lack of food impacts on health.”

 Lancaster University science has already been used to develop new systems to grow cereals in North China, grape vines and top fruit in Australia and in viticulture and vegetable production around the Mediterranean and in the United States.. New water saving techniques have also been developed with the UK horticultural and agricultural industries.

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