bigpicnic at tbg


Food security is one of the greatest challenges facing society today. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization: (FAO) “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”1n horst countries, decisions about food policy are top down and do not provide all societal actors with a chance to contribute or engage with the debate. BigPicnic used participatory approaches to facilitate dialogue between different actors and ensure future research, innovation and policy reflects the opinions and needs of these wider audience groups.

 Using participatory approaches addressed different needs, supports organisations to develop and grow, and empowers all actors to take responsibility to address the big issues facing our society.

            What was Big Picnic?

BigPicnic was a three-year, EU funded project that brought together the public, scientists, researchers, food agriculture industries and NGOs to talk about food security.

Food security in this regard was defined as access to food, food safety, food sovereignty all underlined by culture and heritage aspects.

The aim of BigPicnic project was   to generate public dialogue about food and food security to support future Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) related to these ideas.

RRI (Responsible Research and innovations) described a new approach to research and ethically acceptable and sustainable innovation that aimed at aligning the outcomes of scientific and technological advances with the values and needs of society by involving diverse groups of people, including citizens, researchers, policy-makers and businesses, throughout the entire process.

How was this achieved? 

The methods used included co- creation, exhibitions and science cafés with its local audiences, including groups of people they did not usually worked with.

Co-creation was an innovative and participatory process which aimed at creating, shared ownership of a project between institutions and community partners. In this case this meant working with local stakeholders to develop the exhibitions and science cafés from scratch. Therefore, the structure and themes of these activities where dictated by the public and not the Garden.

As a result of this process, the BigPicnic exhibitions were able to reach around 180,000 people. In addition, the 102 science cafe’s, which were informal science events that brought together the public and researchers, were attended by about 6,000 participants.

A special form of participatory evaluation called Team-Based Inquiry was employed to ensure the activities were delivered to the highest possible standard and also helped to record and analyse the conversations that were sparked as a result of these exhibitions and events.

The results of these conversations have been compiled and used to generate these recommendations for policy-makers and informal learning sites to support RRI in food and food security.

The exhibitions and science cafés covered and generated debate of a broad range of subjects including:

  • Food waste
  • Urban gardening
  • Identity and eating habits/food choices
  • Cultural aspects of food
  • Insects as a protein source
  • Climate change
  • Crop wild relatives
  • Household food security
  • Agro-ecology
  • Securing food for the future
  • The role of schools
  • Food trends
  • Increasing crop production
  • Crop sustainability
  • Increased Local production 


Food and heritage:
The cultural heritage dimension of food should be embedded in food policy.

Climate change:
Increase the resilience of citizens, especially vulnerable groups, to climate change and increase climate neutrality of food systems.

Sustainable food production:
Future funding frameworks should address more sufficient food loss and waste management, small scale food production and sustainable supply chains.

Education and food security:
Food and food security should be topics embedded throughout the formal and informal learning systems.

Using participatory approaches:
Use participatory approaches to raise unheard voices and broaden our perception of expertise.

Using participatory approaches:
Use participatory approaches to raise unheard voices and broaden our perception of expertise.


Using the BigPicnic project data, a series of policy briefs have been developed. Food production, sustainability and the climate, participation, education and organisational development were all shown to be important in the context of the project and food security. The common thread that unites all of these individual areas is heritage and the role that food plays in our individual lives. To address food security, heritage and its overarching influence in all aspects of the debate must be acknowledged.

There were six Bigpicnic policy Briefs; Four aimed to support policy makers to shape future food policies and funding frameworks and two seek to support informal learning sites to apply the learning that occurred throughout the project. Two highlight where BigPicnic findings link to existing frameworks and illuminate gaps in current policy, each policy brief maps the BigPicnic recommendations to the most relevant United Nations Sustainibility Goals (SDGs) and the European Union’s Food 2030 Priorities.

1FAO (1996).Rome Declaration on World Food Security. World Food Summit, 13th-17th November 1996, Rome.


For policy makers

  • BigPicnic policy brief 1: Food and heritage
  • BigPicnic policy brief 2: Climate change
  • BigPicnic policy brief 3: Sustainable food production
  • BigPicnic policy brief 4: Education and food security

For more learning

  • BigPicnic policy brief 5: Using participatory approaches
  • BigPicnic policy brief 6: Organisational development through food security

The full set of BigPicnic policy briefs is available on the general Bigpicnic website: