Feeding the nation: seasonal migrant workers, food and rural livelihoods

As part of the School Research Seminar Series, on 6 March we will hear from Roxana Barbulescu and Bethany Robertson as they present results from the ESRC-funded Feeding the Nation project.

The UK food and agriculture sector relies on seasonal migrant workers to plant, harvest and pack fruit and vegetables. Over 90% of seasonal workers in the UK are migrants. Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic has put significant strains on recruitment and protection of seasonal workers, yet they remain essential to food growers.

This talk will present results from the ESRC-funded Feeding the Nation project. Using 80 remote qualitative interviews, photo diaries and data from a postal survey, we discuss the implication of the new seasonal migration regime and its implications for the livelihood of rural communities across the country.

Dr Roxana Barbulescu  (Associate Professor, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds) and Dr Bethany Robertson (Research Fellow and Lecturer, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds) will present the seminar. 

Feeding the Nation project: impact and engagement activities to support dissemination of research

The project has collaborated with policy actors including The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), a formal partner, making contributions to the DEFRA led-review on Automation, the DAERA NI Northern Ireland Consultation on the abolition of Agricultural Wage Boards, UK parliament Select Committee report on Labour shortages and Food Standards Agency report on acute shortages in the food sector.

Along with charity impact partner New Europeans, the project co-produced multimedia-multilingual information materials to empower pre-departure decisions and map support in the UK. 

The project partnered with the with Museum of Rural English Life and artistic illustrator Sarah Hannis to launch three online exhibitions in an effort to transcend linguistic and other obstacles that visual media and public museums facilitate, and to anchor the research in popular culture. Find links to all three exhibitions: Artistic Exhibition | Feeding the Nation: Seasonal migrant workers and food security during COVID-19 pandemic.

Finally, a song, ‘Feed the Nation’ was co-produced with the folk duo Russel Peddler which was featured on BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today. The song premiered at the Southmont Folk Music Festival in Devon.