A New Canteen Culture? Reimagining Public Eating for Sustenance, Socialising and Sustainability

05/02/2024 10:00 12:00

Coventry University

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Event details

This event will look back to historical precedents and ahead to the future of food to explore the benefits of reimagining public canteens in the UK.


The cost-of-living and climate change are combining to accelerate the crisis in food production and consumption in the UK. Alongside these pressing concerns, models of food service are also undergoing a transformation as calls for new ways of feeding people healthy, sustainable and sociable meals gathers pace and urgency.

Professor Evans's latest book on the history of food in wartime Britain reveals the significance and scale of nation-wide communal dining schemes during this era. Welcomed by some as a symbol of a progressive future in which 'wasteful' home dining would disappear, and derided by others for threatening the social order, these sites of food and eating attracted great political and cultural debate.

In this seminar, this historical perspective is brought up to date through Ian's progressive approach towards a local Right to Food, and his vocal support in Parliament around non-stigmatizing, public feeding programmes.

Together, Bryce and Ian propose a new canteen culture can feed people sustainably, at-scale: reviving the high street and showcasing government and corporate partnerships. The seminar closes with thoughts on what research, organisational and policy developments might facilitate this transformation.


Prof Bryce Evans (Liverpool Hope University): Bryce Evans is Professor of Modern World History at Liverpool Hope University and has a special interest in the history of food. His new book, Feeding the People in Wartime Britain, examines the positive impact of nation-wide communal dining schemes. He is active in the contemporary public feeding space and has submitted policy briefings for the Food Foundation on Community Restaurants.

Ian Byrne MP (Member of Parliament for Liverpool West Derby): Ian Byrne has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Liverpool West Derby since the 2019 general election. In 2020, Byrne launched a campaign for the Right to Food to be written into UK law. Ian was named as "Overall MP of the Year" for 2021 by the Patchwork Foundation, in recognition of his campaigning against food insecurity.

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