The Food as a Lifestyle Motivator (FLM) Project is a pilot project that has run over the past year to explore the use of creative methods (photo elicitation*) to gain insight into the food experiences of service users at a Plymouth based homeless centre.
The findings of this pilot study unveil powerful food stories as told by homeless individuals, illustrating that food holds meaning and can mark identity for service users; it also exerts emotion and can express both power and empowerment; its environment can be space and social place; it provides meaningful occupation. This research is ongoing and is supported by various partners across Plymouth.
This exciting event explored the role of participatory food events to engage ‘marginalised’ communities. The event brought the multidisciplinary FLM research team together with key stakeholders and service users for an interactive food themed workshop at Hamoaze House, Plymouth. This enabled discussions around the social aspects of food and eating and enjoy shared food preparations. This was a key consultative dissemination opportunity for the FLM project, as it brought stakeholders together to share the vision of the project. It also served as ‘active research evaluation’ through videoing and audio-recording (consent permitting) of food activities to capture discussions and views on the important role of food activities to improve health, wellbeing and life-skills in marginalised individuals.
This all-day event showcased FLM findings (in the morning) via presentations, photo exhibition and ‘I-poem’ recitations. Throughout the morning, shared food preparation also occurred, for soup, bread and fresh pizza lunch. Shared lunch was followed by a participatory photography workshop. This interactive activity involved attendees posting their responses to food related images so that discussions around food could be captured to illustrate the power of imagery to promote engagement in food-themed dialogues.
We were thrilled that this represented a strong multi-partner event, welcoming a range of stakeholders and service users to a fun and insightful day celebrating food and its positive impact on social justice.
* Photo elicitation’ is a participatory social research method that involves photos being taken and then used as part of a focused discussion during the research process. This method is known to build skills within disadvantaged communities, and has been used successfully in the homeless population (Wang et al 2000).
Biography: Dr Clare Pettinger
Clare is a Registered Dietitian and Registered Nutritionist (Public Health). She is an experienced lecturer with a proven track record in food choice research. She frequently acts as an advocate for her two professions by offering expert consultancy and advice on food-related issues to the media and local/regional networks. With strong experience in the evaluation of food projects, and a passion for food and social justice, Clare’s research interests have developed in the area of food poverty and the social determinants of food choice. Through a successful Institute for Sustainability Solutions Research (ISSR) grant in May 2014 the ‘Food as a Lifestyle Motivator’ (FLM) project was born, aiming to explore creative methods of engaging homeless individuals to tell their food stories, for enhanced wellbeing and life skills. The FLM project is gaining momentum, having successfully won several small University internal funding awards. This has been consolidated by a small grant of £10k, awarded in August 2015, from The British Academy/Leverhulme: ‘Food as a Lifestyle Motivator’ (FLM) - evolving creative methods into solutions for engaging ‘marginalised’ individuals through food activities.