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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge

The 'Transforming urban food systems for planetary and population health (The Mandala Consortium)' project, is led by Professor Martin White, Professor of Population Health Research in the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.

Funded through the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) it is part of the £47.5M Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment SPF programme.

The Consortium focusses on the city of Birmingham and brings together internationally renowned teams from the universities in Cambridge, Birmingham, Warwick, Exeter and London.


Project aims

The Mandala Consortium aims to transform the urban food system and its relationship with its regional economy in the West Midlands. Mapping of the local food system will determine the most powerful levers for system change. These are likely to include new ways of procuring healthier and more sustainable foods in the public sector, and developing online systems to help businesses find and use more locally grown food. Interventions will be evaluated to demonstrate how food can be made healthier, more affordable and less harmful to the environment, but still profitable.


At the Consortium's launch in 2021, Professor White said: 

The COVID-19 pandemic quickly revealed the fragility of our food systems in the UK.

Recognised as a wake-up call in part 1 of the National Food Strategy (published in July 2020), we urgently need better understanding of how to transform future food systems so that they are more resilient and provide fairer access to healthier and more environmentally sustainable food for everyone.

Our research will focus intensely on the city of Birmingham and its 1.2 million residents to generate new evidence on how such system transformation can be achieved. 80% of the UK population lives in towns and cities, and Birmingham offer a uniquely diverse microcosm for our experiment.

Working with a distinctive group of partners from all sectors, and scientists from a wide range of disciplines, we will work together to identify how the food system works, and what changes can be made to achieve greater fairness, healthiness and sustainability, while maintaining economic viability.

The research will test a number of flagship interventions across the system to provide new evidence that can inform changes across the UK. We will work close with policymakers throughout to ensure the findings have maximal impact across the UK.



Global food security is a major research priority for UK and international science.

Cambridge Global Food Security is a virtual centre at the University of Cambridge. We promote an interdisciplinary approach to addressing the challenge of ensuring all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and preferences for an active and healthy life. 

Please contact the Programme Manager D.ssa Francesca Re Manning to request information, share information, or join our mailing list.