Food citizenship explores the idea that we are not just consumers at the end of the food chain, but participants in the food system as a whole.
When it comes to food, our role as individuals is generally limited to that of the consumer – choosing between products and using our wallets to vote on where and how our food is produced and processed. However, this story about ourselves and our agency in shaping these food systems is, at best, incomplete, and at worst, unjust. Since 2016, we have been exploring what an alternative to consumerism looks like. We call this food citizenship. Food citizenship explores the idea that we are not just consumers at the end of the food chain, but participants in the food system as a whole.
Language has tremendous power. It does more than just communicate information. It engages us in many ways, leading to a multitude of conscious and unconscious responses. All of us, whether we’re out food shopping, watching TV, reading magazines and newspapers or checking social media, are constantly being addressed as consumers. But what are the opportunities of addressing people as citizens instead?
Research by the New Citizenship Project has shown that the simple fact of addressing people as ‘citizens’, rather than ‘consumers’, makes them more likely to care about one another, act collectively, or actively participate in society. Currently, the ‘consumer’ language is deeply embedded in society, but change is in the air.
“By shifting the way we think of ourselves towards a citizen mindset …we unlock our ability to influence and steer the food system towards one that is fair and resilient for all, be it for people, animals or the planet.”
Increasingly, new models of engaging citizens are emerging across the UK food and farming sector. We believe this is a major opportunity for us all to help create a fair and resilient food system.
Our work aims to strengthen the #FoodCitizenship movement and ensure this new mindset becomes the new narrative in UK food and farming systems.
We will do this by nourishing, supporting and connecting those already doing great work in this area and by highlighting examples of where food citizenship is already happening in practice.
There is such a rich diversity of initiatives and businesses that are already thinking as food citizens and operating within this new mindset. So much can be learned from them, and so much power can be taped into when we come together.
This is only the beginning. To join the movement, visit www.foodcitizenship.info
The original Food Citizenship report was launched on 28th June 2017. It was the result of a ten month inquiry, working with the New Citizenship Project and six organisations across the food industry to explore a future ‘Citizen’ food system.
We worked together to explore what could happen if all the key players in the food system switched from a Consumer to a Citizen Mindset; generating ideas and testing new approaches to Food Citizenship; going beyond engagement to involve people, and recognising the multiple roles citizens can have in the food system.
The Food Citizenship movement was first identified in a ten-month inquiry into the future of the food system convened by the New Citizenship Project in collaboration with the Food Ethics Council.
We worked together to explore what could happen if all the key players in the food system switched from a Consumer to a Citizen Mindset; generating ideas and testing new approaches to Food Citizenship; going beyond engagement to involve people, and recognising the multiple roles citizens can have in the food system. This work led to the #FoodCitizenship report and toolkit.
 The New Citizenship Project, 2015, This is the #citizenshift: A guide to understanding and embracing the emerging era of the citizen.
Anna Cura discusses food alternatives and why we should think differently about food culture.