Children on the FoodSEqual project line fishing on a boat in Plymouth Sound
From cost to sustainability, the food system – or where and how we derive our food – is in desperate need of help.
Now a research project co-led by the University of Plymouth has shed light on a research method that’s widely seen as part of the solution.
Dr Clare Pettinger has co-led a toolkit outlining ‘co-production’ – a collaborative way of working between researchers and non-academics to exchange diverse forms of knowledge in an equal partnership for equal benefits. 
From engaging local secondary school children in a fishing trip and Michelin star cooking, to working with local communities to explore their views on tackling obesity, the toolkit highlights 11 case studies of co-production activities from across six projects within the Transforming UK Food Systems (TUKFS) Strategic Priorities Fund programme.
The toolkit has been developed as a key output of research funded by a ‘Synergy’ grant from the TUKFS programme, in collaboration with Professor Charlotte Hardman from the University of Liverpool.

It has been a great passion and pleasure to co-lead this project, which has illuminated the complexity and messiness of co-production approaches for food system transformation research.

For me, it highlights that there’s no ‘gold standard’ for co-production – there are good examples, but these approaches are unique and nuanced. In my view, any creative engagement is good engagement, and, within the context of food systems research, anything researchers can do to bring diverse people on board with the philosophy of creating change is a really positive thing.
This toolkit is a great resource for anyone working with more participatory, creative co-production methods – these are emerging methods for some disciplines such as health and social care and sustainability science as well as food systems transformation, so I would like to extend my thanks to everyone for their support in compiling it.

Clare PettingerClare Pettinger
Associate Professor in Public Health Dietetics, and lead of the programme’s FoodSEqual project

The case studies in the toolkit illustrate examples of co-produced research in diverse food system settings, with researchers working alongside a range of non-academic partners, including farmers, communities, people with lived experience of food insecurity and obesity, social enterprises, school children, and industry partners. 
It also includes a checklist of practical considerations to support researchers, funders and academic institutions engaged in co-producing research for food systems transformation. 
The research team has also co-authored a journal article (pending publication) to share key findings from ‘co-production oracle’ workshops and conversations.

It’s been exciting to explore co-production as a research method and work to share it more widely as part of this toolkit.

The approaches have been used in a major programme of food systems transformation research. We hope that these case studies and our checklist of practical considerations for co-production will support researchers, practitioners, academic institutions, and funders in their implementation of these innovative methodologies.
Naomi Shaw
Research Assistant at the University of Plymouth, studying MSc Human Nutrition  

About FoodSEqual

The vision is to provide citizens of culturally diverse disadvantaged communities with choice and agency over the food they consume by co-developing new products, new supply chains and new policy frameworks that deliver an affordable, attractive, healthy and sustainable diet.
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