Supporting sustainable and resilient food systems: Identifying new instances of bridging social capital within the UK food system
John Elliot Meador, Mike SpencerWe present results from the Transforming and Growing Relationships within regional food systems for Improved Nutrition and Sustainability (TGRAINS) project funded by the Global Food Security programme. The TGRAINS project seeks to help deliver a more joined-up regional food system in the UK through identifying, building and scaling social networks between actors in the UK food system. Specifically, we seek to identify instances of new bridging social capital online that mimic in-person social network structures that have previously been identified in agricultural systems and which have a positive impact on the adoption of sustainable behaviours in farmers. Using data gathered from Twitter, we introduce the method of network jumping in identifying topical and regionally based users. Approximately 3 million tweets are collected between March 2019 and March 2020; these tweets are analysed using social network analysis, spatial analysis and sentiment analysis to better understand how bridging social capital evolves and behaviour changes in online platforms. Results suggest that farmers in spatially bound food systems interact with other farmers via social media and that they discuss the day-to-day activities involved with agriculture. Furthermore, evidence found within this study suggests that online social networks of actors involved in the food system can be used create new linkages between users that positively influence sustainable production and consumption habits within regionally defined food systems.