Date: 26th September 2019
The industrial food system is unfair, with workers struggling to afford to feed their families while shareholder profits soar. Its unsustainable practices deplete precious resources and exacerbate climate change. It treats us all as consumers, where our only power lies in our wallets. This drives short-term behaviour, where our only interest is in price point and availability.
As more people become concerned with social and environmental issues, they’re rejecting the label of ‘consumer,’ and redefining themselves as food citizens. This movement builds a shared sense of belonging and community, enabling us to act on what matters to us, such as animal welfare, the environment and workers’ livelihoods.
Food citizens get involved with the food system at any – and all – points along the chain. A host of new organisations are helping them to grow, make and buy food that’s fair to people, animals and the planet.
Growing Communities Dagenham embodies food citizenship principles. It’s an organic city farm, veg-box scheme, farmers market, urban food-grower training centre and community hub. It provides an ethical alternative to the current industrial model, where local people volunteer on its London farms and buy organic, climate friendly food.
Better Food Traders links people across the country with their local community growing schemes. It accredits community-led enterprises that sell good, healthy food, and that care for the environment and everyone along the supply chain. It values fairness and transparency, paying ecological farmers and growers a fair price and sourcing climate-friendly food locally when possible.
Many children have never been exposed to the flavours of a varied diet, leaving them unwilling to try anything new. To build a better food system, we need to help them enjoy diets based on cooking from scratch using fresh, local, seasonal plant-based foods.
Flavour School helps build children’s curiosity, confidence and willingness to try new foods. It empowers children to have a positive relationship with food and eating, teaching them about the five senses and helping them to develop the words they need to express their experiences and preferences. Crucially, it promotes veg, fruit and wholefoods by helping them to want to eat it, not just by telling them they ought to like it.
Food citizens are made, not born. We can start by helping children to have a healthy relationship with and understanding of what makes good food. We can give young people and adults opportunities to engage with the food system by volunteering to grow food at community farms, allotments and gardens, and by giving them the information they need to choose food that’s people, animal, environment and climate friendly.
Food Citizenship, How thinking of ourselves differently can change the future of our food system.