Good Food Governance

Local food sustainability expert Joy Carey awarded an honorary degree at UWE 

By Ramona Andrews

A leading local expert on food sustainability and a founding Director of Bristol Food Network, Joy Carey, is one of three recipients of honorary degrees presented by the University of the West of England (UWE) this autumn. 

Joy Carey, David Lamb, and Professor Paul Olomolaiye were conferred during UWE Bristol’s graduation ceremonies between 23 and 24 November. 

At the ceremony on Friday 24 November, Joy said “I am deeply grateful and humbled to receive an award of Honorary Master of Science from this University in recognition of my commitment to sustainable food system planning and for my leadership of the Bristol Gold Sustainable Food City award.” 

Orator Dr Sarah Hills, Senior Lecturer in Sustainability at UWE of England presented the degree. 

Joy is an independent Sustainable Food Systems Planning consultant with a focus on cities. She has worked in sustainable food and farming with UK and international organic and local food sectors since 1990. 
Her career in food began with practical community-based horticulture in the early 90s, growing Asian and Caribbean vegetables in inner city Birmingham, followed by formal horticulture training and growing for an organic veg home delivery business in Norfolk. 

From 1998 to 2009 she joined, and then led, the Local Food team at the Soil Association in Bristol developing models like box schemes, farmers’ markets and local sourcing for school meals to connect food producers more directly with their customers. This vital work ranged from supporting place-based local food networks around the UK to changing public sector food procurement to securing a £1-million project to promote and explore the potential for Community Supported Agriculture schemes – all aimed at both changing food culture and influencing government policy. 

Over the last 14 years, she has undertaken a wide range of consultancies. 

Between 2010-2014 she was lead researcher for the Countryside and Community Research Institute, (University of Gloucestershire) in an extensive national impact assessment of the Big Lottery Local Food Fund, a £58 million grant fund for community-led local food projects in England. 

She is a founding Director of Bristol Food Network (BFN) – an organisation that builds collaboration and partnerships to make Bristol’s food system better for communities, climate and nature. She is author of ‘Who Feeds Bristol: Towards a resilient food plan’ (2011), a city region food system assessment report that informed the Bristol Good Food Plan (2013), and much subsequent work including a contribution to the UWE MOOC ‘Our Green City’ in (2015). From 2018, Joy led Bristol’s collaborative effort to become recognised as a Gold Status Sustainable Food City.  

That work continues today as Bristol Good Food 2030, part of Bristol’s integrated response to addressing quality of life, the nature emergency and the climate crisis. Additionally, Joy joined the Bristol Green Capital Partnership board, taking a lead on the food theme from 2016 to 2022. 

At an international level, Joy’s work on sustainable food systems includes looking at climate change risks to City Region Food Systems (CRFS), for which she has developed food system-related indicators for monitoring, enabling cities to both develop food strategies and track progress over time. In 2021, she created the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact monitoring framework practical handbook and resource pack for use by cities all around the world, commissioned by the UN Food and Farming Organisation (FAO). 

Dr Sarah Hills did the oration for the award presented to Joy Carey on Friday 24 November

Joy has led and contributed to numerous other courses, presentations and publications, and has co-produced two documentary films: Just Clean Cotton (2010) about Indian organic family farming and cotton production, and Local Food Roots (2013), about the emergence, achievements, and challenges of the UK local food movement since 1990. Joy also tutors on the annual international training course: ‘Food Security in an Urbanising Society’, run by Wageningen University, Netherlands. 

During the ceremony held on Friday 24 November, Joy passionately expressed: “When it comes to reducing the harmful effects of the food system and using food as a positive driver to address other challenges, like climate change, it’s the joint power of city organisations and the public that can create real change – through a mix of policy, partnerships and buying power.” 

The significance of food procurement, especially for large institutions, cannot be overstated. With a combined population exceeding 42,000 individuals, including students and staff, Joy talked about how the university plays a pivotal role in shaping the city’s sustainable food landscape. UWE catering services emerged as a crucial case study, contributing substantively to the evidence that secured Bristol’s prestigious Gold Sustainable Food City Award. For further insights, explore UWE’s comprehensive Sustainable Food Plan and Policy.

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