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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds Eating is an activity in which we engage in every day as part of everyone’s life. Making food choices on a regular basis puts us consumers in an active role when it comes to consumption and ethical considerations. We are in fact citizens of our food systems. And citizenship implies both duties and responsibilities along with several rights. Essayist Wendell Berry recognises a portion of the population which does not acknowledge his rights and responsibilities as a consumer that has become passive, uncritical, and dependent. Berry underlines how consumers buy what they want or what they have been persuaded to want within the limits of what they can get. They pay mostly without protest what they are charged.

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and cost of what they are sold. Gail thinks this definition of a community food system may come in handy in our discussion to incorporate a vision of food citizenship described as a collaborative effort to build more locally-based, self-reliant food economies, one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental, and social health of a particular place.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds The goals of this type of food system include providing equal access to nutritious and healthy food, a network of farms engaging in more eco-friendly production practises, tools and practises to facilitate a direct linkage between consumers and farmers, agriculture-related businesses and food companies which invest financial resources and create new jobs, food-related policies promoting products that are locally produced, processed, and consumed. Food citizenship can therefore be seen as a series of engaging practises and food-related behaviours that support instead of undermining the development of an environmentally-sustainable food system that is also economically and socially just as well as democratic.

Skip to 2 minutes and 42 seconds Food citizenship can be practised at first as an individual act by simply considering the food system implications of how and what we introduce to our bodies. This process can be followed by taking action to implement a more sustainable and healthier approach to food. These actions may include choosing locally, sustainably, and ethically-produced food as well as promoting seasonal varied diets to give value to local production and processing. Change cannot only be dependent on small decisions made by individual consumers, but it has to be supported by regulatory frameworks developed and implemented by courageous policymakers and political leaders responding to public interest in collaboration with local farmers and producers and by the cooperation of state, regional, and local institutional policies.

Skip to 3 minutes and 43 seconds To guarantee the good practise of good citizenship, the food system itself must strive toward sustainability and a community-based approach. The emergence of food citizenship along with the need for new forms of political participation and consumerism is giving birth to modern consumption movements such as the Italian Solidarity Purchasing Group, SPG. The interesting aspect of this phenomenon which is still a niche one, is to be found in its ability to mobilise and socialise individuals over environmental and social justice issues like pollution and labour exploitation. The SPGs can be defined as local networks of people who share the same values and consumption decisions following specific criterias. They collectively organise consumption activities, observe specific shared rules based mainly on solidarity.

Skip to 4 minutes and 47 seconds They respect the environment by buying only seasonal, organic, and locally-manufactured products and the producers hence exiting the mainstream capitalist dynamics by collectively sharing the burden of organising the food supplies. The SPGs can be classified as social movements observing the following four characteristics that lie at the core of the definition itself– informal relationships between the members, the presence and use of social networks, solidarity, trust, and community, the organisation of protest events. Another important aspect of this phenomenon is the role played by internet and social networks in the organisation of the movement. In fact, the web has represented a pivotal communicative device and a powerful tool in creating the social networks.

Skip to 5 minutes and 46 seconds Numerous SPGs have also created websites in order to further amplify the visibility of the groups and their mission while reaching a wide range of the public. SPGs do not only engage in practical food-related activities, but they have also taken part in social campaigns to raise awareness on social justice issues and environmental issues. They promote educational projects in schools, organise conferences, and promote pilot environmental-friendly projects at a local scale. Social phenomenons such as the SPGs can be marked as pressure movements that promote critical consumerism and local political participation operating as new agents of environmental, political, and socioeconomic change.

Skip to 6 minutes and 41 seconds Buyer groups represent a new wave of active and responsible citizens and consumers who care about quality and sustainability as much as the processes and costs of goods. These forms of political consumerism seem to be able to stimulate the production and reproduction of inclusive attitudes, the diffusion of a cooperation culture and practise, and the formation of new social affiliations among citizens.

Food and Critical Consumption

Making food choices on a regular basis puts us consumers in an active role when it comes to consumption and ethical considerations.

We are in fact “citizens” of our food systems, and citizenship implies both duties and responsibilities, along with several rights.

Essayist Wendell Berry (1989) recognizes a portion of the population, which does not acknowledge his rights and responsibilities as a consumer, that has become passive, uncritical, and dependent. Berry underlines how consumers “buy what they want, or what they have been persuaded to want, within the limits of what they can get. They pay, mostly without protest, what they are charged. And they mostly ignore certain critical questions about the quality and cost of what they are sold” (1989, p. 125).

Gail Feenstra’s definition of a community food system may come in handy, in our discussion, to incorporate a vision of food citizenship, described as ‘‘a collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies, one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental, and social health of a particular place’’ (Feenstra, 2002, p. 100).

The goals of this type of food system include:

  1. Providing equal access to nutritious and healthy food
  2. A network of farms engaging in more eco-friendly production practices
  3. Tools and practices to facilitate a direct linkage between consumers and farmers
  4. Agriculture-related businesses and food companies, which invest financial resources and create new jobs;
  5. Food related policies promoting products that are locally produced, processed and consumed

Food citizenship can therefore be seen as a series of engaging practices and food-related behaviors that support, instead of undermining, the development of an environmentally sustainable food system, that is also economically and socially just, as well as democratic.

Food citizenship can be practiced at first as an individual act by simply considering the food system implications of how and what we introduce in our bodies. This process can be followed by taking action to implement a more sustainable and healthier approach to food. These actions may include choosing locally, sustainably and ethically produced food, as well as promoting seasonal-varied diets to give value to local production and processing.

Change cannot only be dependant on small decisions made by individual consumers, but it has to be supported by regulatory frameworks, developed and implemented by courageous policy-makers and collaboration with local farmers and producerslitical leaders responding to public interest, in ; and by the cooperation of state, regional and local institutional policies constitute. To guarantee the good practice of food citizenship, the food system itself must strive towards sustainability and a community-based approach.

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Introduction to Food Science

EIT Food