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The Food Programme


Investigating every aspect of the food we eat


London, United Kingdom




Investigating every aspect of the food we eat




The food books of 2023

Over a coffee in community arts space The Place in Newport, south Wales, The Food Programme presenters Sheila Dillon, Leyla Kazim and Dan Saladino choose two books each from the year: one that has made them cook, and one that has made them think. Sheila also meets George Harris, creative director of Tin Shed Theatre Company, to hear why food has become part of their work, and leaf through a very special cookbook that has been passed down through George's family. Wondering what the next generation makes of food books, Sheila visits a group of young food activists from the organisation Bite Back 2030, to debate one of the top food books of this year - Henry Dimbleby's Ravenous. Meeting at Bite Back HQ, in north London, they also discuss whether TikTok spells the end of an era for recipe books and share their own recommended reads. Dropping in on cookbook buyer at Topping books in Bath, Kathleen Smith, we find out what's been selling this year and how trends vary according to region. Plus, scattered throughout, we hear the personal book recommendations from best-selling food writers and chefs including Rukmini Iyer, Poppy O'Toole and other familiar faces, picking their own favourite new releases from 2023. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Food Under Siege in Gaza

Sheila Dillon looks at what the current conflict in Gaza has done to food supplies in one of the most densely populated places on earth. After Hamas gunmen launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7, killing 1,200 people and taking about 240 hostages, the Government of Israel responded with air strikes on Gaza, and launched a ground offensive. To date, more than 14,800 people have been killed in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run government. Hundreds of thousands of others have been displaced to the south of the territory, where vast numbers are living in make-shift camps. Aid agencies say hunger is spreading, as shops have been emptied of food, and a lack of fuel is restricting how much food can be distributed around. In this programme, recorded while the situation in Gaza is still changing on a daily basis, Sheila Dillon seeks to find out how people are feeding themselves and their families, how resilient the population is given the uncertainties they face, and what long abandoned food ways can they fall back on as supplies run low. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol for BBC Audio by Natalie Donovan


Older Men Learning to Cook

Jimi Famurewa talks to men learning or rediscovering cooking later in life, maybe due to a change of circumstance or loss of a partner, to hear how it's changing their lives. In the programme we meet the participants of the latest Man with a Pan cookery course, run by Community Chef at Lewes Community Kitchen, as well as a weekly class run by Age UK in north London. Jimi also chats to the team behind Men’s Pie Club, which uses food as a tool to help tackle loneliness and social isolation with men, getting them in a room once a week, to make a pie, connect and meet people. Presented by Jimi Famurewa and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Mezcal: A Beginners Guide

Dan Saladino explores the Mexican spirit mezcal and the diverse world of agave spirits. Contents include: Gary Nabhan (Agave Spirits book): Agave Road Trip Podcast: Sin Gusano: Kol: El Pastore: Produced and presented by Dan Saladino.


BBC Food and Farming Awards 2023: Second Course

Sheila Dillon presents more winners from the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2023, including who was crowned Best Streetfood, Takeaway or Small Eatery and the winner of the Food Innovation Award. We also hear stories of the amazing finalists and winners in the Community Food and Young Countryside Champion Awards. Finally, the winner of this year's prestigious Derek Cooper Outstanding Achievement Award is revealed in recognition of their impact on the UK's food and farming. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Nina Pullman for BBC Audio in Bristol.


BBC Food and Farming Awards 2023: First Course

Join Sheila Dillon from the International Convention Centre Wales in Newport for the BBC Food and Farming Awards 2023. In this first episode from the ceremony, we hear the winners of awards including Best Food Producer, Best Drinks Producer and the brand new for 2023 Digital Creator Award. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Natalie Donovan for BBC Audio in Bristol.


Prescribing Fruit and Veg – A New Model for the NHS?

A pilot public health scheme in south east London is prescribing fresh fruit & veg to people with chronic disease and mental health conditions. Sheila Dillon meets Dr Chi-Chi Ekhator, an NHS GP and lead at the A.T Beacon Project, to hear how the prescriptions are working, and how it’s a part of their mission to bring healthcare out of GP surgeries and into the heart of Lambeth’s most hard-to-reach communities. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol


Eating Wild Part 2: Inside the Gut Microbiome

Dan Saladino finds out what happened to people who embarked on a wild food adventure, including chef and Arctic explorer Mike Keen and a group of British foragers involved in the Wild Biome Project. After three months, their physical health has been analysed, including their gut microbiomes. Are there lessons for us all? For more information on the test results: Mike Keen's Arctic exploration: Wild Biome Project: Produced and presented by Dan Saladino.


Kombucha: A Miracle Drink?

Kombucha has been around for a while but it has not had huge success in this country like it has in the US and Australia. In this programme, Jaega Wise looks at why that may be as well as sampling some drinks from our BBC Food & Farming Awards finalists and investigating the health claims of kombucha. This programme features Old Tree Brewery, William Kendall, Mark Ilan Abrahams, Paul Cotter, Lucy George from Peterson Tea and Kara Monssen. Presented by Jaega Wise and produced for BBC Audio in Bristol by Sam Grist


Local food – is it working?

Local food networks thrived during lockdown with more people turning to local producers, farm shops and veg box schemes as supermarket shelves ran dry. But how are they doing now? The Covid pandemic was a reminder that localised networks give our food system resilience during disruption, but also that they pay farmers fairly to produce food in a nature friendly way, and helps them stay in business. The cost of living crisis has been one of the biggest difficulties for this system recently, as consumers pay a higher price at the till. Sheila Dillon visits Growing Communities, a local food network in Hackney, East London who run a veg box scheme, to hear what’s needed to help networks like theirs to expand. She also talks to Rana Foroohar, global business columnist and associate editor at The Financial Times, about what the Biden administration is doing to decentralise the food system in the US. Nigel Murray, Managing Director of Booths Supermarket, explains how they support smaller producers and local supply chains in the North West of England and Yorkshire. And we hear from the Food Producer finalists in the 2023 BBC Food and Farming Awards, about how they are carving out their own diverse network of customers outside the supermarket system. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol


Abergavenny at 25

25 years ago two Monmouthshire farmers had a plan. BSE had hit the rural area hard, and they wanted to create a food festival to showcase the area's produce. They set about putting it together in the relatively unknown town of Abergavenny. 25 years on and the event is now one of the UK's best known food festivals that attracts a star-studded line up of chefs and producers, hosting demonstrations and discussions and much more. Sheila Dillon has been going to the festival for many years, and in this programme finds out why Abergavenny Food Festival has had such success, how it continues to stay relevant, and what impact it has beyond the town. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol for BBC Audio by Natalie Donovan


BBC Food and Farming Awards: street food finalists

Judges have been visiting the finalists in this year's BBC Food and Farming Awards. This episode of The Food Programme celebrates the businesses shortlisted for the street food and take-away category. This year it's been extended to include small eateries as well. Chefs Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn won the award eight years ago. Now they're back as judges. We sample Malaysian rendang cooked in a traditional clay pot at Joli in London; meet the cooks at Maasi's in Cardiff who've invented the "naanwich" in their Pakistani cafe; and try curries from DabbaDrop in East London, which are delivered by bike. Presenters: Sam Evans and Shauna Guinn Producer: Rebecca Rooney


The Food Innovators: Radical Thinkers, Big Ideas.

Dan Saladino judges the The Food Innovation Award part of the BBC Food & Farming Awards. He is searching for big ideas that can change the food system. In this programme he meets the three finalists: Wildfarmed grow cereals, alongside farmers that share their values, using a regenerative farming method that prioritises the health of the soil. They are aiming to create an alternative to industrial farming. Too Good To Go is an app that lets you rescue unsold food from bakeries, cafes and supermarkets that would have otherwise been thrown away, at a much lower cost. The Alexandra Rose Charity aims to support low-income families by providing fresh fruit and veg through a voucher scheme and prescription scheme through GPs. The vouchers can be spent in local markets, helping the local economy.


Festival Food

As summer draws to a close, Jaega Wise heads to the Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) to learn what goes into feeding the thousands of fans gathered for the Green Man festival. Over the past 20 years or so, the food at music festivals has evolved from mostly burgers, chips and noodles, to an array of traders cooking foods from all over the world, sit-down banquets, and chefs on the line up. So what has driven this change, and can it continue to thrive while the cost of everything involved in producing it has risen so much? What has the evolution of better festival food meant for sustainability? And what do you do if you don’t want to spend a fortune on food at a festival, but still want to eat well? Comedian George Egg has some answers. Presented by Jaega Wise Produced in Bristol for BBC Audio by Natalie Donovan


A Food Museum – can it make us care about food?

If food is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and also a lens through which we can interpret our history and how we live now, then surely it deserves a museum? The UK has only just got its first permanent Food Museum. It’s in Stowmarket in Suffolk, recently rebranded from The Museum of East Anglian Life. Sheila Dillon visits its beautiful 84 acres, with its historic buildings, crops, orchard, kitchen garden, water mill and animals to find out how the museum team are reinterpreting its collections to connect people to where our food comes from. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol


Wedding Food

Wedding food is one of the biggest costs on the big day but the sit-down three-course dinner is making way for food trucks and festival-style take-aways. We explore how the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis have affected couples and caterers. We find out why it's called "a wedding breakfast" - even though the reception's rarely in the morning and ask what's happened to the traditional wedding cake. We also meet a chef who's campaigning to stop food waste and caters for weddings with food that would have been thrown in the bin. Presenter = Jaega Wise Producer = Rebecca Rooney


The Global Food System: Too Big to Fix?

World leaders met in Rome to fix the food system. Dan Saladino reports on what happened at the United Nations summit and looks at some of the big ideas put forward for change. Produced and presented by Dan Saladino.


Medicinal mushrooms – magically good for our health?

Mushrooms like Chaga, Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Turkey Tail are popping up all over the place at the moment, in supplements, powders, and even coffee. These are the so-called medicinal species of mushroom that have been used for centuries by our ancestors, and currently today in Traditional Chinese medicine. Sheila Dillon started taking these mushrooms a decade ago as part of diversifying her diet after becoming seriously ill, but they weren’t that easy to buy then. Now they seem to be everywhere. And some of the health claims you can find online attached to these medicinal species go way beyond what can currently be backed by modern science. In this programme Sheila finds out how medicinal mushrooms went from ancient wild food, to the latest hot health and wellness trend. We hear from Professor Nik Money, mycologist at Miami University in Ohio, about Lion’s Mane and what we currently know about the claims that it’s supposed to be good for our brains. To taste the freshest UK-grown medicinal species in the flesh, Sheila visits specialist mushroom grower Forest Fungi in Devon. And she has a mushroom coffee with Dr Emily Leeming, Scientific Researcher at Kings College London, to discuss mushroom supplements, and what we know about the nutritional benefits of mushrooms and their impact on the gut microbiome. Presented by Sheila Dillon and produced by Sophie Anton for BBC Audio in Bristol


Feeding Your Brain: A Users Guide.

Dan Saladino and psychologist Kimberley Wilson explore the latest science about food, mental health and boosting our brain power. Featuring Professor Michael A Crawford (Imperial), Professor Felice Jacka, Professor Felice Jacka of the Food & Mood Centre, Deakin University, Australia and Professor Ted Dinan, psychiatrist at University College Cork. Also, from the Radio 4 archive, Dr Bernard Gesch, Senior Research Scientist in the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford (featured in The Food Programme 2005), Dr Simon Dyall, nutritional neuro-scientist at the University of Roehampton (Just One Thing) and Allesandra Borsini, Senior Research Fellow at Kings College (All In The Mind). Produced by Dan Saladino



Ultra-Processed Food makes up more than 50% of all calories consumed in the UK - but UPFs are being linked with obesity and disease, and there are calls for tougher regulations. In this programme, Sheila Dillon meets the Conservative MP for Stourbridge, Suzanne Webb, who says current government guidelines about healthy eating do not go far enough. She says regulators need to stop focussing on individual ingredients, and should focus on health outcomes. The term Ultra-Processed Food, or UPF, was coined more than a decade ago to describe foods that are highly processed, contain many ingredients that are not found in ordinary kitchens and are often wrapped in plastic. They are most supermarket cereals, bread, ready-meals, ice-cream, fruit yoghurts and desserts. Diets high in these foods are being associated with several illnesses including obesity, cancer, depression and heart disease. Several countries are now advising consumers to limit their consumption of UPF, but in the UK there are no plans to change advice. Last week, the Government's scientific advisors on nutrition published a statement on (ultra-) processed foods and health, concluding that although research consistently associates increased consumption of UPFs with ill-health, there are uncertainties around the quality of the evidence available. The Government says it is already taking action to limit the consumption of foods that are high in salt, sugar and fat, which will include many UPFs. So it seems better research is needed - but as Sheila Dillon hears, researching in this area is painstakingly complex. Presented by Sheila Dillon Produced in Bristol by Natalie Donovan