Climate change and population growth have put overwhelming pressure on the food supply chain. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse, particularly in poorer countries. There’s never been a better time to address what’s needed to bolster the sustainability of global food supply, and our partnership with the Science Museum Group on ‘Feeding Tomorrow’ has acquired an unexpected relevance.
‘Feeding Tomorrow’ is a research project that brings the Science Museum together with partners in India and Brazil, two of the countries currently hardest-hit by the pandemic. It’s designed to find the most effective ways of engaging people in food issues, and giving them the knowledge they need to bring about change.
The Lloyd’s Register Foundation’s 2019 Foresight Report identified education as one of the top three areas needing investment if the global food crisis is to be solved. So the Science Museum, the UK’s most-visited museum by secondary schools, is an ideal partner. Using the data gathered by ‘Feeding Tomorrow’, we can reach the people who will have most influence on a future of sustainable food supply.
“Increasing public understanding of and engagement with key issues in the fight to feed a growing population is crucial to finding solutions to the global food crisis,” says Zoe Hawken, the Science Museum’s Interim Head of Trusts, Foundations and Government.
“Building on our expertise and strengths – in public engagement with complex issues, a global audience reach and with the Science Museum being the most visited museum by school groups in the UK – combined with the contacts, expertise, knowledge and global perspective of the Foundation, we are working in partnership to understand how to inform and engage the public in this challenge, so they can choose to make choices that will impact the global situation,” she added.
Partners in this global project are the National Council of Science Museums in India (and in particular the National Science Centre in Delhi) and the Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil. Both institutions are currently in the epicentre of the pandemic, which has exacerbated existing problems of food sustainability. This emphasises the urgency of the project, even at a time when face-to-face engagement has been impossible.
The work was scheduled for 2020 but delayed by the onset of COVID-19. However, delaying the start of the audience research has also meant reshaping it. And, says, Amy Harbour, the Project Manager in charge of the project, this has meant doing things in a way that is both more effective and more sustainable.
“Instead of flying audience researchers out to talk to people in Brazil and India, we are working with Flow Associates who have a network of locally-based researchers. All of the conversations are taking place safely, sustainably and locally.”
“Working with local researchers has also given us a valuable, early insight into the context – what people think about food issues in these countries,” says Amy.
Stage one of the project, which is still taking place, is an online survey in the UK, Brazil and India, open to all, aimed at getting a baseline of public opinion in the three countries. A total of 300 people in each city (London, Delhi and Rio) have participated in the survey, and a select few will be chosen for more in-depth research. At this stage they will be segmented into three groups: individual adults, families with children and education groups (schools and colleges).
The UK survey has just closed but it will remain open in Brazil and India for a further month – as a result of the serious ongoing situation in both countries, which has had a severe impact on the programme.
The responses gathered will feed into a final report to be published in September 2021, and be used to develop effective ways of engaging the world’s populations with the topic of food supply.
The audience research asks what people think about global food sustainability, what the solutions might be, and how they like to explore and learn about these issues, whether in museums or through other media. It’s designed to explore differences and similarities between audiences in India, Brazil and the UK, in the food sustainability issues they face, how they understand them, and how they want to engage with them.
The final report will provide the three museums with a thorough understanding of their audiences’ attitudes, needs and wants, and an initial view of current research in this area. It will also enable any organisation to use its findings to engage the public with food sustainability issues.
About the Science Museum Group
The Science Museum Group is the world’s leading group of science museums, welcoming over five million visitors each year to five sites: the Science Museum in London; the National Railway Museum in York; the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester; the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford; and Locomotion in Shildon. The museums share the stories of innovations and people that shaped our world and are transforming the future, constantly reinterpreting our astonishingly diverse collection of 7.3 million items spanning science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Standout objects include the record-breaking locomotive Flying Scotsman, Richard Arkwright’s textile machinery, Alan Turing’s Pilot ACE computer and the earliest surviving recording of British television. The Group’s mission is to inspire futures - igniting curiosity among people of all ages and backgrounds. Each year, the museums attract more than 600,000 visits by education groups, while a touring exhibition programme brings its creativity and scholarship to audiences across the globe. More information can be found at sciencemuseumgroup.org.uk.