PhD Studentship – Schools as Sites for Integrated Community Food Action

University of Sheffield

This PhD studentship will investigate the potential of schools as sites for integrated community food action. Existing research has focussed on the quality and nutrition of food provided within school or the role of schools in emergency food provision, particularly during and since COVID-19 and the current cost of living crisis. There have been a range of studies engaging with school gardening initiatives. However, such work remains disconnected from wider interdisciplinary scholarship on sustainable food systems and the range of interventions required to develop integrated community food action.

This PhD will work with a local school in Arbourthorne, Sheffield to understand its own efforts to develop community food interventions through an initiative called An Even Better Arbourthorne. You will be encouraged to locate this work in the context of interdisciplinary scholarship on food systems and school-based food policy and practice.

You will co-design the study with the school and the supervisory team, drawing on your interests and expertise, to align with the broad aim of developing a framework for schools as sites for integrated community food action. The following questions provide a starting point: what role can a primary school play in relation to food security, waste reduction and improving healthy and sustainable diets and environments at different points in the food system? What impact do initiatives have – for the individuals (physical, mental health and wellbeing) and the environment – and how would we evaluate this? What are the public policy implications of school-based food interventions, for instance, for education policy, food policy or health policy at national and local levels?

You will be supported to make a critical contribution to interdisciplinary inquiry across multiple domains of study, through expert supervision, training and peer-to-peer learning. You will have the opportunity to make a real world contribution alongside academic study. This studentship offers the dual benefits of a vibrant interdisciplinary research community, and an embedded placement within Arbourthorne Community Primary School – working alongside staff and community volunteers to learn by doing.

You will be supervised by Professor Beth Perry, Director of the Urban Institute, Dr Joanne Thompson, Director of One University, Medical School and the headteacher of Arbourthorne Community Primary School, Vanessa Langley. You will also benefit from an extended Supervisory Support.  Dr Megan Blake, Department of Geography, and Dr Sam Caton, School of Health and Related Research.


Applicants are expected to have a strong first degree (2.1 or a first class honours) in an area relevant to this studentship, including social science experience. Candidates with a Masters degree should have the equivalent to a Merit or above. Regular attendance in Sheffield is a prerequisite, for training and supervision purposes, as well as to participate in and plan food-related interventions at the school.

Please include the following with your application:

  • A one-page personal statement explaining how your skills, experiences, interests and career plans make you a suitable candidate.
  • A 500-word statement explaining why you think this research is important and how you would approach it.
  • A two-page CV.
  • Enquiries:

    On the PhD topic: [email protected]

    Applications: [email protected]


    Fully funded 3.5-year studentship covering UK (Home tuition) fees, stipend at the UKRI rate.  A research and training support grant of up to £3,000 per annum to cover research expenses.

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