Research, outcomes and impact

The 2018-23 Food Strategy Action Plan includes a commitment to strengthening our relationship with the research community and improving the value of academic research on food for both practitioners and policymakers.

Tracking and measuring the impact of a citywide approach to food

We have also committed to developing innovative methods for tracking and measuring the impact of a citywide approach to food. Following a joint workshop with Sussex University in 2017, we have developed a draft outcomes framework. We are working with partners to pull together the indicators that will make this a practical tool, which we hope will also be useful for other cities. 

We regularly undertake research, both on our own and with other partners such as Brighton & Hove City Council Public Health. Our research reports are on our publications page.

Research needs

This is our current list of research needs. We welcome approaches from partners who would like to build these needs into their research:    

Impact of a city-wide approach to food   

  • Work with Brighton & Hove Food Partnership to produce an annual progress report on the food strategy action plan (Jan to March annually), contacting stakeholders to gather progress reports and evaluating where progress has been effective and where less so. There would also be the opportunity to focus on one or more key areas and carry out interviews with stakeholders – in Spring 2020 these would be food poverty, food waste and the citywide veg city campaign. 
  • Compare social media activity around food in Brighton & Hove with at least one other city to explore whether social media can be used as an indicator of a healthy food culture (i.e. whether good food is part of the fabric of people’s lives as well as embedded at policy level).
  • Evaluate the impact of our city-wide approach on influencing policy, analysing whether food is now featuring more centrally at a policy level than in comparator cities. Desk-based policy analysis with possibility of stakeholder interviews. 
  • Co-develop a longer-term (e.g.  PhD) project tracking the overall impact of the food strategy action plan over time: 
    • testing and further refining the indicators in the outcomes framework for our food strategy 
    • and/or comparing Brighton and Hove to places without a food strategy  
    • and/or using a survey approach e.g. tracking three specific streets over time. 

Community Food 

  • Explore how Saunders Park, one of our community growing projects, has an effect on the community around it. Although we have lots of evidence of the impact on volunteers and those directly involved, we would like to know more about how the space is used when we are not there, and any effect it has on the wider community that happen to live nearby or use the area.
  • Mapping shared meals in the city, with a view to updating the ‘lunch clubs’ section of our directory along with updating a few aspects of previous research, particularly the geographical spread of lunch clubs and any gaps in provision. There may also be up to date lists of shared meals organisations available from partners organisations e.g.  FareShare (who deliver surplus food to many of them) to inform the research.
  • Researching the number and different types of community gardening projects in the city in order to understand the overall picture better and also to estimate the total amount of land covered by community gardening, using the ‘gardens’ section of our directory. There is also information on allotment land in the List of Greater Brighton Property assets and background data in this 2013 evaluation, as well as the option to use satellite data e.g. google maps.
  • Undertake an Ecological Impact Assessment of Stanmer Wellbeing Gardens and recommend any changes to the site which could enhance biodiversity whilst keeping the use of the site for community food growing and wellbeing activities.

Food Waste/ Food Surplus  

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of our online food donation portal by analysing the data generated from the website form and follow up with selected stakeholders to understand better how the platform has worked.
  • Explore whether/how we can better articulate the value of food waste and what we save by redistributing surplus e.g. whether we can put a financial value and/or a CO2 reduction value and/or value which incorporates wider environmental impact e.g. packaging, energy & water.
  • Research how close we as a city are to meeting the Sustainable Development Goal target 12.3 to ‘halve food waste’ by 2030, starting by establishing how we can measure levels of food waste at a city level.
  • Co-design a survey of food businesses to understand the barriers to tackling food waste across Brighton & Hove and area(s) of East Sussex (scope to be agreed). Use the survey and/or interviews to identify what support would help businesses to reduce their waste, such as information on food waste audits or consultancy support. Evaluate and produce a report on the findings which references the UN sustainable development goal on food waste reduction. This project could also include mapping existing waste management infrastructure (e.g. composting facilities, recycling facilities) across the South-East region.

Food poverty/inequalities and food access   

  • Support with undertaking and analysing data for survey and report on food banks use and needs carried out by Brighton & Hove Food Partnership annually (generally July – August). 
  • Undertake interviews and/or focus groups to understand better the barriers to accessing a healthy diet, and identify possible solutions, in two groups our research has identified as vulnerable to food poverty: 18-34 years olds (1/3 of whom in our city have concerns about affording basic living costs) and young people moving on from care.   

Food Production  

  • Explore how we might measure the proportion of Downland Estate (land owned by Brighton & Hove City Council) managed to high sustainability standards, by cross referencing with Natural England data sets; and/or research if there is any way to measure at a local level progress against Sustainable Development Goal indicator 2.4.1 “Proportion of agricultural area under productive and sustainable agriculture.” 
  • Compile existing data on soils, water and nutrient availability across the Downland Estate in order to explore the potential for sustainably producing more food (especially vegetables and fruit) around Brighton and Hove. 
  • Explore options for developing an indicator which will track the health of our local pollinator population over time and/or compared to other areas.   
  • Explore options for measuring the health of the local marine environment and/or how we can measure at a local level the Sustainable Development Goal indicator 14.4.1 “Proportion of fish stocks within biologically sustainable levels”.
  • Explore the ecological footprint of the city that is related to food using foodprint methodology or similar. This would focus on the carbon footprint of food production and consumption but may also explore other environmental or social factors. 


  • Explore options for developing an indicator which can measure over time and/or in relation to other cities the ‘vibrancy’ of our food economy  i.e. number and diversity of food businesses, including smaller/independent/non-town-centre, by using NOMIS data and records held by Brighton & Hove City Council partners.  
  • Explore options for developing an indicator which can measure over time and/or in relation to other cities the value given in our city to employment in the food sector, in particular exploring how much food workers are paid, and how many people are training for a food career (i.e. food being seen as a career rather than a ‘dead end job’).  

Catering & Procurement  

  • Explore how we can measure the impact of the Good Food Procurement Group. The group has collectively taken actions around healthy and sustainable food and we would like to calculate the impact of these especially CO2 reduction, but there would also be potential to explore health and/or social benefits. 
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the Brighton & Hove City Council’s Minimum Buying Standards policy to understand how many contracts are now subject to the standards, and to calculate the total number of meals served annually which are influenced by the different areas of the policy (e.g. local sourcing, healthy eating standards).  And/or undertake a desk-based audit of other City Council policies and initiatives (e.g. plastic free pledge, climate change action plan) that could be incorporated into a revised version of the policy. (Ideally from January 2020).

Health & Sustainability  

  • Evaluate a Brighton and Hove pilot using the Wessex nutrition wheel with around 20 front line workers as a tool for opening up conversations about eating well, and to detect and address under-nutrition. Will require following up with frontline workers and advising whether the wheel has worked effectively, how it could be improved if rolled out across the city, and what can be learned about undernutrition in community settings. 


Research would build on the ‘food and planning’ project undertaken in partnership with Sustain and Brighton & Hove City Council Planning Department to integrate food growing & food access issues into the Brighton and Hove planning system – seen as best practice nationally e.g. see

  • Undertake approximtely 3 case studies of development sites in Brighton and Hove which have included food growing, in line with local planning guidance including the innovative Planning  Advice Note at This would involve site visits to take pictures and interview stakeholders to see how this has worked in practice. Note that we can provide a list of sites but you would be required to make the arrangements re visits. Opportunity to write up as a reflective blog piece for our website.
  • Help us to understand what opportunities are there within the planning system to ‘protect’ food infrastructure e.g. wholesalers and slaughterhouses.  For example, would it be possible to use Article 4 directions and if so how would that work in practice and has this been trialled in other areas?  If not are there any other tools?

Ideally this would start with defining what we mean by food infrastructure (there has already been some discussion with other areas on this we can pass on) and then carrying out a mapping exercise on an agreed area e.g. East and West Sussex (tbc- could be a smaller area such as the Biosphere)  identifying the existing food infrastructure which is in place.

  • Help us understand whether any opportunities exist within the planning systems to protect or encourage local and/or sustainable agriculture.  E.g. would it be possible to protect or to identify (for example via local plans) sites for smaller/start-up farms/farming which use agroecological methods that are more likely to enhance biodiversity and carbon capture? – e.g. agriculture is a very broad designation but are there opportunities via ‘horticulture’? Has this been done in any other areas?  Likely to be a desk-based piece of research but we would also welcome approaches which included visiting stakeholders.
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