University of Calgary

Charlotte Spring

  • Postdoctoral Associate

Research history

Charlie started at UoC in January 2020,to begin a project exploring how community food initiatives bridge issues relating to food (wastage, food insecurity, health etc) to other aspects of inequity and struggle (particularly housing). With a background in community work and social anthropology, her preferred methodology is ethnography, based on committed engagement in particular spaces (participant observation).

Her previous role was a postdoctoral research position at the University of Sheffield, where she co-organised a participatory research project exploring the potential for digital coproduction to enhance the work of urban food partnerships. This involved navigating the practical and political challenges of bringing together diverse food system actors in cities: food producers, public health officials, food support charities, retailers and different kinds of activists- as well as citizens (as is oft repeated, everyone needs to eat). We wanted to ask whether digital tools could help overcome some of the differences in capacity, resource and influences these actors bring to the table: and what kinds of barriers might be introduced by digital translation and communication.

Her freelance research has included a study of 'emergency' food provision for local government (Tameside, Greater Manchester), and evaluation work for the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance.

Charlie's PhD, was a critical ethnography of UK organisations redistributing surplus food, asking whether and how these can prevent or contain problems of food wastage and food precarity. Her doctoral research included a Churchill Fellowship to North America to investigate its food banking industry, learning from groups contesting corporate charity as a dominant response to poverty. Understanding relationships between food waste and hunger reflect her fundamental interest in socio-environmental problems, especially around food systems change. Her doctoral work drew on urban political ecology, assemblage and framing theory.

Alongside her academic work, Charlie tries to maintain an active community role, including chairing a sub-group of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance and participating in Good Food Greater Manchester, a multisector food partnership. She has written articles on topics such as the global expansion of foodbanking, food as a human right and critical perspectives on charity in publications including The Guardian newspaper, Lacuna magazine, RealMedia, OnThePlatform and for Greater Manchester Poverty Action. Her understandings of marginality and socioenvironmental policy have been much shaped by her work for organisations including ATD Fourth World (London), Association Migration Solidarite et Echanges (Strasbourg) and Environmental Strategy teams at the University of Salford and Manchester City Council.


Photograph of Charlotte Spring
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