Skip main navigation

Food and Critical Consumption

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.

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Food Science

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now