Who Decides What’s In My Fridge – completed Autumn 2016. Full Project Report
The research project explored how people experience the regulation of their food habits in their community. The project was a collaboration between the University of Bristol and three community organisations in Bristol; Coexist in Stokes Croft, Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) in Knowle West, and Single Parent Action Network (SPAN) in Easton.
The project developed out of discussions between academics and community partners in 2014. Who Decides What’s in my Fridge was the overarching research question agreed to try and explore some of the factors that shape people’s food habits.
The research took place between June 2015 and July 2016. It was coordinated by a researcher who was employed by one of the organisations but worked across the four partner organisations. We used a participatory approach and mixed methods, enabling the design of the research to be responsive to the emerging findings of the project and utilise the experience and expertise of the partner organisations.
Participation involved groups and individuals from the nearby areas of two of the partner organisations involved, including; a group of eight ‘Junior Digital Producers’ employed by KWMC, local residents in Knowle West, and a group of Somali women in Easton, supported by SPAN.
In Knowle West, the emphasis was on gathering quantitative and qualitative data through surveying the local community, organising events and holding focus groups. The JDPs investigated what influences people’s food choices, from the location of shops and the price of goods to the amount of time they have available to cook. They developed an interactive survey using a life-size fridge filled with food and questions. The research indicated that the location of shops and availability of food are key considerations for many people in Knowle West. You can see the results of the Junior Digital Producers’ work at www.kwfood.org and share what you think.
In Easton participants took part in peer research training based on participatory mapping and peer interviewing. In this group there was a particular emphasis on looking at the preponderance of takeaways and how food environment affects the health and well-being of communities. Somalian women from the group went and spent a day cooking with the Community Kitchen over at Coexist.
In February 2016 the two communities were brought together for a workshop, facilitated by Coexist, to share knowledge and diverse cultural understandings, and to identify overlapping research themes. Together the groups were interested in further exploring the spatial regulation of food habits: how local environments and neighbourhoods work to influence the decisions that we make about food, and how to create change.
Following this workshop we commissioned an artist, Anne-Marie Culhane, to work with project participants to explore and re imagine community food spaces to improve access to affordable, nutritious food. As part of the commission, Anne-Marie proposed bringing a ‘Shed on Wheels’ to Bristol to act as a hub for food-based activities and workshops. Anne-Marie designed and curated two days of events in Knowle West called ‘Taste of Knowle’. In Easton participants worked with the artist to organise a pop-up ‘Somali Kitchen’. In total, more than 750 people attended these events. This culminated in a celebration event Feasting on our Research.