A pilot study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to explore the bridging of time theory and practice through an investigation of the time politics of food. It researched processes and barriers involved in translating into practice academic knowledge about pertinent TIME issues in the food system.

AIM - to engage key players in food policy in direct knowledge exchange with a view to making transparent what at present is an implicit and taken-for-granted dimension of the food system, that is, TIME in its multiple functions, dimensions and uses.

OBJECTIVE - to initiate a change in perspective by putting time on the food policy agenda through a number of key institutional access points: farming unions, regional and national politics, NGO's and media.

TIME THEORY ARGUMENTS - Three time issues are driving the economy: time = money, speed = productivity, time control = efficiency

  • This economic time knows no seasons and no context. It belongs to the 24-hour, non-stop world of just-in-time trading and finance.
  • Nature in contrast changes with the seasons. It pulses to the rhythms of the sun and moon, night and day, growth and decay
  • The conflict between those two time systems is central to:
    • animal welfare issues,
    • the crisis in farming,
    • environmental problems,
    • to the political commitment
    • sustainable development,
    • the inequitable redistribution of risks,
    • public concern about food safety in general and GM food in particular
  • Yet, currently this clash of time systems is not on the food policy agenda

  • For interlocutors time was both familiar and strange.
  • The time of economic exchange was regulating their lives and food policy invisibly
  • Most respondents thought it was important to make time explicit as it would enhance the debates around
    • quality
    • locally sourced food
    • sustainability
  • Interlocutors' assumptions about consumers - such as the change to 'heat and eat', price & convenience as over-riding factors, no label reading, food as entertainment - were tested with two focus groups and found wanting
  • Key consumer concerns emerged around
    • inappropriate labelling
    • taste
    • freshness
    • price - saving money which tends to be more time-intensive
    • convenience - saving time which costs money for others' time input
  • The potential of a time perspective for food policy was recognised and the need to achieve time literacy subtly and pervasively acknowledged by a majority of interlocutors.
Cardiff School of Social Sciences