Economic and Social Research Council partnership

The Food Standards Agency and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) formed a strategic partnership in 2008 to fund activities, which aim to develop the social science evidence base on issues around food.

Understanding society

The Agency has committed funding to the Understanding society study, which will enable it to include questions in future waves of the work to help understand the impact of social, economic and health-related behaviours and life events on individual’s eating habits.

Understanding society is a major new research study designed to enhance our understanding of life in the UK and how it is changing. It is the largest study of its type in the world and takes a unique, long-term (longitudinal) view of our lives.

Specifically, Understanding society is designed to deliver:

  • information on changes in the lives of people, and factors that are associated with them, such as poverty, health, employment and disability, which may affect people differently from year to year
  • analysis of changes and developments at both an individual and family level – providing a fuller picture of how economic, social and generational factors impact on families, including consumption and income
  • opportunities to explore links outside the household, for example social networks, to examine long-term processes for passing cultural information from one generation to the next
  • evidence on important new and emerging policy issues, such as the environmental impacts of household behaviour, health-related behaviours and emerging diversity in our society

The annual UK-wide study takes a sample of 40,000 randomly-selected households containing around 100,000 individuals.

Food waste, food safety and kitchen practices report

This report introduces a new ‘change points’ approach to focusing on household food waste and its relationship to food safety concerns. Reducing food waste has been a major UK policy concern for a decade, but responses to this challenge can sometimes sit in tension with food safety advice. The report synthesises evidence to help understand how householders negotiate these conflicting concerns on a daily basis and how food ends up being discarded in home kitchens.

This report is part of a research project bringing new ideas and evidence to bear on policy concerned with water, energy and food consumption. Reshaping the Domestic Nexus is a collaboration between research teams at the Universities of Sheffield and Manchester, in partnership with Defra, BEIS, Food Standards Agency and Waterwise. It is funded by the ESRC Nexus Network.

Read the report on the Reshaping the Domestic Nexus blog