Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

  • 25 April 2022

New research takes a fork-to-farm approach to assess the potential of bean-based meals

Image: Anton Murygin | Unsplash

A newly launched research project led by Dr John Ingram of the Food Systems Transformation Group at the Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, is subverting the 'farm-to-fork' paradigm to assess how UK grown beans can help tackle the issue of HFSS (high in fat, sugar and salt) food.

Thinking beyond the can: Mainstreaming UK-grown beans in healthy meals (BeanMeals) is one of 11 projects in a new £14 million UKRI programme that aims to address the challenges of obesity and public health; sustainable food systems; and consumption patterns.

Based in Leicestershire, the BeanMeals project starts with the question of how to promote healthy diets through bean-based school meals and works backwards through the supply chain to bean processing and growing. Crossing research disciplines with innovation topics, the project aims to determine how best to bring about systemic innovation, as well as analyse the health, environment and enterprise benefits of the transformed system.

The research team pulls together expertise from UK research institutions, spanning areas such as food systems, agroeconomics, systemic innovation, food policy, legume breeding, public health and behaviour change.

  • Dr John Ingram, University of Oxford (PI)
  • Prof David Barling, University of Hertfordshire (CoI)
  • Dr Angela Dickinson, University of Hertfordshire (CoI)
  • Dr Charlotte Hardman, University of Liverpool (CoI)
  • Prof Eric Holub, University of Warwick (CoI)
  • Prof Gerald Midgley, University of Hull (CoI)
  • Dr Monika Zurek, University of Oxford (CoI)

Dr John Ingram, Principal Investigator for BeanMeals said: "BeanMeals has the potential to create wide-ranging impact, from systemic innovation in institutional catering and home-cooking through the use of healthier ingredients, to new public procurement practises and increased demand for locally grown products.

"We are looking forward to working with Leicestershire County Council, Leicester City Council, Food for Life and the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), and other local and national stakeholders. These organisations all see the potential for enhanced outcomes for health, enterprise and the environment."

This latest investment is part of UKRI's 'Transforming UK Food Systems' Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) Programme, adding to the earlier £29 million awards across four large consortia projects and a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT).

Professor Guy Poppy, Programme Director of the Transforming the UK Food Systems SPF Programme, said:

"The 11 new projects joining our consortia and CDT means we now have a network of more than 37 UK research organisations across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. That network is also supported by approximately 200 additional stakeholder organisations, including the private sector colleagues and other government departments and agencies.

"The range of projects engaged in the SPF Programme will help to address the complex challenges we face around dietary choice and methods of farming and will help to ensure there is sustainable and healthy food for everyone in the UK."

Find out more about the Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment SPF programme.



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