Transforming urban food environments

These PhD projects will analyse the scope for a sustainable transformation of urban food environments and of the city-region food system they are entangled with.

Start date

1 October 2022


3 years

Application deadline

Funding source

University of Surrey

Funding information

  • Full tuition fee waiver p.a.
  • Stipend at UKRI rates p.a. (currently at £16,641)
  • £1,000 p.a. training/travel costs



During the last decade, an increasing number of cities have acknowledged the need to radically change their food environments so as to make sustainable and healthy food more available, affordable and attractive to citizens. There are many examples of projects that meaningfully contribute to a balanced and inclusive development of urban food environments and to the empowerment of their communities. However, barriers to, and opportunities for, the scaling-out and scaling-up of successful projects are still under-researched.

These PhD projects will analyse the scope for a sustainable transformation of urban food environments and of the city-region food system they are entangled with. Research questions to be considered include: to what extent do urban food environments contribute to spatial and social inclusion through a reconfiguration of power relations? What types of social, cultural and material interactions with food occur in different types of urban food environments (e.g., retail, hospitality, institutional, land use-based)? How and to what extent do different types of urban food environments enable a wider adoption of sustainable diets and healthy eating practices? A focus on deprived and vulnerable communities as well as on the adoption of innovative methodologies and technologies (e.g., Machine Learning and AI-enabled) that support multi-stakeholder engagement and/or draw on the experiential knowledge of citizens to collect, map and analyse food-related data are particularly welcome.

The successful applicant will be supervised by Professor Roberta Sonnino and will be based at the Centre for Environment and Sustainability. We have a vibrant, interdisciplinary research community tackling the biggest issues faced by society globally and host high profile guest lectures from government and industry. You will receive comprehensive research training and opportunities to participate in conferences, workshops and seminars to develop professional skills and research network.

Related links

Centre for Environment and Sustainability

Later start dates

A later start date of July 2023 is possible

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a first or upper-second class degree in a relevant discipline (or equivalent overseas qualification), or a lower second plus a good masters degree (distinction normally required).

This studentship is for UK students, EU students, and international students.

IELTS requirements: If English is not your first language, you will be required to have an IELTS Academic of 6.5 or above (or equivalent), with no sub-test score below 6.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Environment and Sustainability PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

Please include your CV, degree certificates and transcripts and two reference contacts. Please upload a cover letter under the research proposal section, detailing how you would like to develop your PhD research (e.g., research questions, focus, methodology, etc.).

Studentship FAQs

Read our studentship FAQs to find out more about applying and funding.

Application deadline

Contact details

Roberta Sonnino

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