Knowledge for a sustainable world

BSc, MSc, PhD
Dr Fiorella Picchioni
Senior Lecturer in Political Economy of Food Systems

Food and Markets Department

Natural Resources Institute, Faculty of Engineering & Science

+44 (0)1634 88 3685

Fiorella Picchioni is a UK Research and Innovation Futures Leader Fellow at NRI, University of Greenwich. She is an applied development economist, and her work is grounded in political and feminist economics theories and methods.

Fiorella’s main area of studies is inequality through the lens of food. She focuses on: 1) the political economy of food access and agri-nutrition interventions; 2) gendered, class and racial dynamics of food work; 3) the repercussions of food production on the provision of nutrition and health using a social reproduction approach. Her academic practice is informed by mixed-methods approaches and primary data collection.

Before joining the NRI, she was a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Reading (School of Agriculture, Policy and Development). She completed her PhD at SOAS, University of London (fully funded by the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health). Her thesis developed innovative methods and tools from the field of agricultural economics and nutrition to examine pathways of food price fluctuations on food security and nutrition. 

Between 2021 and 2023 Fiorella acted as a co-manager of the UK Food Systems Centre for Doctoral Training where she co-designed, developed and deployed the core training modules in interdisciplinary food systems research for PhD students.   This was informed by her experience in teaching and supervision at undergraduate and graduate level. She has developed and convened modules and summer schools as well as delivering guest lectures in various institutions (LSHTM, UCL, SOAS, LSTM). Before joining academia, she worked at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the UN as grains market analyst, contributing to flagship publications (FAO Food Price Index, Food Outlook, FAO Global Markets Monitor). She has a BSc in Political Science and International Development (University of Pavia, Italy) and an MSc in Development Economics (University of Florence, Italy).

Fiorella is funder and co-chair of the ANH Political Economy of Agri-Nutrition Working Group (with Sara Stevano) and she coordinates the Gender and Social Differences programme (with Lora Forsythe and June Po). She is also a Review Editor on the Editorial Board of Social Movements, Institutions and Governance (specialty section of Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems). Her work has been published on World Development, Food Security, Antipodes, Canadian Journal of Development Studies, among others.

  • Political economy of ultra-processed foods availability and access;
  • Linking processes of food production and consumption via a social reproduction approach;
  • Feminist political economy of food fortification programmes;
  • Trajectories of labour intensification, well-being and gender in rural livelihoods;
  • Relationship between rural transformation, climate adaptation and nutrition through a social reproduction lens;
  • Development of innovative methods and interdisciplinary approaches in food systems analysis.

Principal Investigator: UKRI Futures Leaders Fellowship (2024-2028).

The future leaders fellowship award will support the creation of the interdisciplinary, multi-country and innovative Observatory for Research and Practice on Food Systems and Social Reproduction with the aim bring the necessary transformation to food systems to: i) no longer perpetuate inequalities and injustices currently embedded in the way food is produced, distributed and consumed; ii) enhance resilience to socio-economic and environmental shocks. The research programme will take place in Ghana, South Africa and the UK.


IMMANA Project: Political Economy Analysis of Food Industry (PEAFI) - unpacking the influence of the food industry on adolescent consumption of ultra-processed foods in Sub-Saharan Africa (2023-2025).

The Political Economy Analysis of Food Industry (PEAFI) aims to develop a methodological approach to investigate the influence of the ultra-processed food industry in food systems and nutrition analysis in the African continent. It integrates the macro and meso levels of analysis critically needed to understand, not only what, but also why and how the consumption of ultra-processed foods is increasing so dramatically.

The project’s overarching objective is to improve the understanding of the political economy of ultra-processed foods complex processes and rules that influence consumption among adolescents in Ghana. Anchored in political economy, human geography and public health nutrition analysis, PEAFI provides a suit of methodological guidelines, data analysis plans, interview guides, frameworks to uncover power dynamics in the food system.


British Council: Quality Index for Healthy and Sustainable School Feeding Menus (IQCAES²): a multidimensional evaluation platform for Brazil's national school feeding program (2022).

Building on IQCAE (2020), a validated indicator easy access and simple application that evaluates menus’ nutritional parameters defined by the National School Feeding Program (PNAE), IQCAES² aims to provide a comprehensive evaluation platform of school feeding programmes, to integrate environmental and societal sustainability considerations when assessing school menus in Brazil. The project has two functions: 1) create sound evidence on best practices; and 2) address the translational problems in research by engaging with a wider range of actors. The indicator will help define actions aimed at guaranteeing food and nutritional security for the population served by PNAE and for planetary health. The pilot sets the ground for future developments of IQCAES², to include a wider range of sustainability dimensions, and conducting cross-country evaluation.


GRE Grand Challenges of the Industrial Strategy: Industrial diets in West Africa: mapping the ultra-processed foods consumption and the local food industry sector in Ghana (2022).

The project aimed at carrying out a data mapping exercise and a literature review on ultra-processed foods consumption in Ghana, a country with rising obesity and non-communicable diseases rates. The map will serve to: i) produced an evidence and gap-map (EG-M) on ultra-processed foods consumption; ii) build a solid foundation of preliminary evidence; ii) identify the areas where data and analysis is missing; iii) develop a targeted plan of fieldwork for the new submissions.


 Co-Investigator: GCRF Equitable Resilience, ‘Depleted by Debt? Focusing a Gendered Lens on Climate, Credit and Nutrition in Translocal Cambodia and South India’ (2019-2021).

Facing growing crises of agricultural productivity and taking primary responsibility for the nutritional wellbeing of their households, women are targeted as credit borrowers globally. Credit provisioning therefore speaks to the push for 'resilience' against climate disasters. But how do we ensure that small-scale credit as a tool for 'climate resilience' does not come at the cost of women's emotional and bodily depletion through processes of household nutrition provisioning? This is the key concern motivating this two-year multidisciplinary project which is set within the political economy contexts of Cambodia and Tamil Nadu, India.


GCRF Pump-Priming, ‘Through the Looking Glass: Applying a Gender Lens to Agricultural Transformation, Labour Intensification and Nutrition Outcomes in Rural Livelihoods in LMICs’ (2019-2020).

The project aims to explore the potential of the ongoing technology revolution in consumer-oriented wearable devices to transform empirical research on gender differentials, intra-household dynamics, nutrition outcomes and labour productivity in rural livelihoods (in Telangana and Odisha state, India). The new metrics can significantly improve the design and impact evaluation of interventions related to maternal and child nutrition, women’s empowerment, and agricultural technology adoption in rural contexts in the Global South.


Post-Doctoral research positions: GCRF, ‘Breaking the intergenerational cycle of malnutrition, food security and poverty in low-income countries: Making the case for adolescent girls and boys in India and Nepal’ (2019-2020)

The project aims to understand the health and nutrition inequality among adolescents, a population group that has, until recently, been largely missing in the nutrition literature in LMICs. We will unpack the pathways between life stages, occupation and nutritional status and, by using innovative technologies, we will explicitly incorporate the energy expenditure dimension in the analysis of undernutrition among adolescent boys and girls. We adopt a mixed-method and multi-scalar approaches to determine the drivers of nutrition inequalities among adolescents coming from poor and marginalised communities in Telangana (India) and Nepal.


New Keys for Old Black Boxes: Developing Methods to Improve Nutrition Assessment by Measuring Energy Expenditure (2017-2019)

The research deployed accelerometry technologies to generate rigorous energy expenditure profiles associated with agricultural and livelihood activities. Recent advances have led to development of rugged wearable accelerometry devices suitable for use in the context of rural/agricultural occupations. The project took place in rural settings in three countries – India, Nepal and Ghana – across a range of agro-climatic conditions and agricultural systems with diverse cropping patterns, technology and input use. Energy expenditure profiles associated with agricultural and livelihood activities were generated through an innovative integration of accelerometry data from wearable devices checked against 24-hours time-use questionnaires administered to the respondents. The link to nutrition outcomes will be made through collection of 24-hour recall dietary intake data from the same respondents.

CDT PhD candidates (Kernel Project):

  • Laura Toffolo – Project Title: Who picks our food? Labour shortages and labour rights in the UK food system in times of compounding shocks.

PhD Students:

  • Umma Safiyanu Yahaya – Project title: TBC (co-supervised with Lora Forsythe and Adrienne Martin)
  • Anicée Defrance – Project title: The role of school food in the UK’s political economy: An exploration via the people, practices, and policies of school food provisioning in east London state primary schools (co-supervised with June Po and Anastasia Kalea (UCL))
  • Zoe Collins – (draft) Project title: Is work in food production in the UK food system inherently exploitative? Investigating the relationship between faming systems, labour conditions and young people’s career attitudes (co-supervised with Rachel Wild and Eszter Kovacs (UCL)).
  • Ursula Tumamo - Project title: Assessing farmers and pastoralist climate information needs to strengthen climate change adaptation strategies in the north region of Cameroon. (co-supervised with and Kaysara Khatun and Adamu Idris Tanko)
  • Lead author: Picchioni F., Zanello G., Battacharia M., (2022). Towards more comprehensive analyses of the Nutrition Transition among adolescents in the rural South: an empirical contribution. In P. Prosperi and K. Kevany (eds) Routledge Handbook of Sustainable Diets, London: Routledge.
  • Picchioni, F., Goulao, L. F., & Roberfroid, D. (2021). The impact of COVID-19 on diet quality, food security and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review of the evidence. Clinical Nutrition.
  • Picchioni F., Po J., Forsythe F. (2021). Strengthening resilience in response to COVID-19: a call to integrate social reproduction in sustainable food systems. Special Issue “Covid-19 and Crises of Capitalism: Global Responses and Intensifying Inequalities”. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, 1-9
  • Picchioni, F., Warren, G. P., Lambert, S., Balcombe, K., Robinson, J. S., Srinivasan, C., ... & Shaw, L. J. (2020). Valorisation of natural resources and the need for economic and sustainability assessment: The case of cocoa pod husk in Indonesia. Sustainability, 12(21), 8962.
  • Picchioni F., Zanello G., Srinivasan C., Wyatt A., Webb P. (2020). Gender, time-use, and energy expenditures in rural communities in India and Nepal. World Development, Volume 136, December 2020, 105137
  • Picchioni F., Aleksandrowicz L., Aurino E., Bruce M., Cuevas S., Dominguez-Salas P., et al. (2017). Roads to interdisciplinarity – Working at the nexus between food systems, nutrition and health. Food Security, 9: 181
  • Picchioni F., Aleksandrowicz L., Bruce M., Cuevas S., Dominguez-Salas P., Jia L., et al. (2105). Agri-health research: what have we learned and where do we go next? Food Security, 8(1), 291-298
  • Co-Author: Sambu W., Picchioni F, Stevano S., Codjoe E., Nkegbe P., Turner C. (2023). Food systems thinking unpacked: a scoping review on industrial diets among adolescents in Ghana. Food Security.
  • Bhattacharya M., Picchioni F., Zanello G., Srinivasan C.S. (2023). Quantity and quality of physical activity during adolescence: Evidence from a mixed-method study in rural Telangana, India. Journal of Biosocial Science.
  • Guermond, V., Iskander, D., Michiels, S., Brickell, K., Fay, G., Ly Vouch, L., Natarajan, N., Parsons, L., Picchioni, F. and Green, W.N., (2023). Depleted by Debt:“Green” Microfinance, Over‐Indebtedness, and Social Reproduction in Climate‐Vulnerable Cambodia. Antipode.
  • Park C., Picchioni F., Franchi V., (2021). Feminist approaches to transforming food systems: a roadmap towards a socially just transition. Special Issue on: “Food Systems Transformation for Inclusive and Sustainable Development”. Tropical Agriculture Association Journal, Ag4Dev
  • Brickell, K, Picchioni, F., Natarajan, N., Guermond, V., Parsons, L., Zanello G., and Bateman, M. (2020). Compounding crises of social reproduction: Microfinance, overindebtedness and the COVID-19 pandemic. World Development. Volume 136, December 2020, 105087
  • Srinivasan C., Zanello G., Nkegbe P., Cherukuri P., Picchioni F., Gowdru N., Webb P. (2020). Physical Activity, Drudgery Reduction and Nutrition in Rural Livelihoods. Economics and Human Biology, 37, 100846 4
  • Zanello G., Srinivasan C., Picchioni F., Webb P., Nkegbe P., Cherukuri R., Neupane S. (2020). Physical activity, time use, and food intakes of rural households in Ghana, India, and Nepal. Scientific Data 7(1), 1-10 Lu, F.,
  • Kanter, R., Augusto, G. F., Walls, H. L, Cuevas, S., Florez-Martinez, A., Morgan, E. H, Tak, M. and Picchioni, F. (2014) 4th annual conference of the Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH), agri-food policy and governance for nutrition and health, London, 3–4 June 2014. In: Food Security.
  • Research and Policy Reports:  Iskander, D., Picchioni, F., Vouch, L. L., Parsons, L., Guermond, V., Michiels, S., ... & Natarajan, N. (2022). Trapped in the service of debt. How the burdens of repayment are fueling the health poverty trap in rural Cambodia. Royal Holloway, University of London editions
  • Picchioni, F., Po, J. Y. T., and L., Forsythe. (2021). Moving beyond productivism and instrumental arguments to increase food systems resilience CJDS Policy Brief Series. Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Canada.
  • Zanello, G., Picchioni, F., Srinivasan, C. S., Webb, P., Nkegbe, P., Cherukuri, R., and Neupane, S. (2020). Accelerometry: A practical tool for obtaining human energy expenditure data. IMMANA Policy Briefing Note. London (UK)
  • Zanello, G., Srinivasan, C.S., Picchioni, F., Webb, P., Nkegbe, P., Cherukuri, R., Neupane, S., Ustarz, Y., Gowdru, N., Neupane, S., and Wyatt, A.J. (2018). Using Accelerometers in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Field Manual for Practitioners. University of Reading, Reading (UK)

2023 UK Research and Innovation Futures Leader Fellowship

2023 Review Editor on the Editorial Board of Social Movements, Institutions and Governance (specialty section of Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems).

2022 International Association for Feminist Economics Mentorship Working Group Board member

2021 Co-Chair of the ANH Political Economy of Agri-Nutrition Working Group (with Sara Stevano)

2013 Leverhulme Centre for Integrative Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH), Full PhD Scholarship (£~45,000)

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