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Rachel Headings


Title of Research:

Building Back Better: justice narratives within UK food policy responses to COVID-19.

Brief overview of research topic:

The recent United Nations’ report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (2020) demonstrates that we are far from achieving the zero hunger targets set out in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. In fact, if current trends of hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnourishment continue, almost 10 percent of the global population (more than 840 million people) will experience hunger in 2030 (FAO et al., 2020, p. 3-4). This trends have only been exacerbated by recent ‘fundamental shocks’ -- extreme events or trends such as COVID-19, economic recessions and climate change that influence global patterns -- and the full impacts of these events is still being determined (FAO et al., 2020). A recent movement to ‘build back better’ has emerged as a response and developed into an international call for radical transformation toward a more just and sustainable society (Noy et al. 2017; OECD 2020; #BuildBackBetter 2020). Applied to food security and nutrition, the same idea can be seen through calls from the international community for food system transformation (UN, 2020; FAO et al., 2020; HLPE, 2020; Scoones et al., 2020). But even with such a wide consensus on the need for food system change, it is still unclear which direction that change will take and whether or not it will be transformational (Ericksen et al. 2009; Sage 2014; Scoones et al. 2020; Scoones & Stirling 2020). What does it mean to build a better food system? Who decides what this means and who ultimately benefits from the change?

The aim of this research is to address some of these questions by exploring the trajectory of food system change within recent food policy. Specifically, this project will try to answer how different narratives of justice within food policy responses to shock events, especially COVID-19, affect broader food system change.

Rachel’s research interests include food poverty and policy, political ecology, human rights, power relationships and social movements.



MSc Food Policy, City University of London and

B.A. Public Relations with concentrations in English and Sustainability, Northern Michigan University


(2016) Mittlefehldt, S., Thompson, J., Headings, R. and Skrocki, E. Sustainability survey report. Northern Michigan University, Marquette, MI, USA. April 2016. Available at:


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Rachel is supervised by Professor Tony Heron (Politics) and Dr Jon Ensor (Stockholm Environment Institute)

Contact details

Ms Rachel Headings