Dr Andrew Williams - Human Geography

Dr Andrew Williams, Lecturer in Human Geography, School of Geography and Planning, Cardiff University, writes about his experience of submitting evidence to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty.

"In July 2014, I submitted written evidence to 'Feeding Britain' and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty – chaired by Frank Field MP and Bishop Tim Thornton. The research team – comprising Professor Jon May (QMUL), Professor Paul Cloke (University of Exeter) and myself – had been working on the British Academy funded ‘Emergency Food Provision in the UK’ project (July 2014 – December 2016), that sought to map the nature and scale of the UK’s emergency food system.

We submitted two reports to the APPG that detailed the scale, coverage and make-up of the food bank sector in urban and rural parts of the UK. The submission informed the APPG by providing more accurate data on the number of both food banks and other emergency food projects operating in the UK. It was my first experience of engaging with Parliament as an academic researcher, but the format of the report was straightforward and took only three days to put together.

The submission to the APPG report led to an invitation to attend the report’s launch, where we made contact with a number of NGOs and policy groups we hadn’t previously met with, and received further invitations to other similar events. The experience has sparked an interest in academic engagement with UK Parliament as well as the devolved powers in Wales.

My advice to someone considering engaging with Parliament would be simple: prepare your key messages (use analogies, stories, and translate statistics into visible images that are easily memorable); speak plainly but do not undervalue the critical contribution that academics can make in shifting the terms of debate; keep up-to-date with policy developments from Think Tanks and Political Parties (have evidence close to hand to challenge policy ideas where you feel you want to); and try to offer very specific policy recommendations and supporting evidence."