Earlier this month, a group of us had the opportunity to gather around the question “How can thinking of ourselves and others as food citizens, rather than consumers, help solve the challenges of our food systems?”.

After a warm welcome from Dan Crossley from the Food Ethics Council, Jon Alexander, co-founder of the New Citizenship Project, took us through the mindset shift that is currently happening in the wider world, from consumerism to citizenship.

Frankie Ball sharing Soil Association’s story

At the Food Ethics Council, we have been observing this shift accelerating in the UK food and farming sector. Since 2018, we have engaged with food citizenship pioneers across the UK food and farming systems, including individuals working in businesses and civil society organisations (CSOs). Through discussion seminars, system mapping workshops, in-depth interviews and analysis of different models and strategies of engagement in pioneering organisations, we have identified how to accelerate the shift away from consumerism and towards food citizenship. Our latest publication ‘Harnessing the power of food citizenship’ highlights what the key food citizenship principles are, and how we can, as an individual or within our organisations, translate those into simple actions to engage with people as food citizens rather than simply consumers. For individuals working across the UK food and farming sector, this report invites us to reflect on how we nurture ourselves as food citizens and how we can engage with others within our organisations and beyond.

To illustrate how this shift looks like in practice, we invited Frankie Ball from the Soil Association to share the organisation’s journey towards food citizenship (and you can read its story here – page 22-23). We were particularly inspired by the evolution of its Organic September campaign, which went from “choosing and buying organic” to “Together we can make a world of difference”.

Inspiration

Inspiration carousel

The Soil Association isn’t alone in pioneering the shift towards food citizenship. Twelve other organisations joined us on the day to share their stories and have meaningful conversations with fellow pioneers. Participants had the chance to:

We took community at lunchtime seriously!

Open Space

After a communal lunch, and a brilliant and empowering session with Climate Change Coaches, participants were invited to propose the issues they wanted to discuss as a collective, using the open space format. The following questions were proposed and discussed:

  1. How can we bring a diversity of ideas into the National Food Strategy?
  2. Where are the synergies between positive mental health, food citizenship and healthy eating?
  3. How can food citizenship help us reframe poverty?
  4. How is the term ‘tribe’ negatively or positively impacting food citizenship?
  5. Can we coalesce around the big issues of our time – global heating + biodiversity loss and join as vegetarian/vegans/selective meat eaters?
  6. What defines an ethical food choice and how do we ensure people are making it despite barriers they might face?
  7. How can we bring existing food outlets on board with food citizenship, who see/treat food as a commodity?
  8. Based on everything today, what am I/you/we going to do (differently) tomorrow, next month and next year?

Each group had the opportunity to discuss the context on each theme, share inspiration, ask challenging questions and sometimes even elaborate key principles to keep in mind. You can read the full notes here.

What next

A key theme in the feedback we received at the conference, and since, is how can we all remain engaged with the ongoing food citizenship movement. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Use the #foodcitizenship hashtag to share what you are doing with the rest of the network
  2. Are you working in a particular area that you want to apply food citizenship to? Do you want to share your reflections on how food citizenship can help reframe health and obesity, poverty, food waste, climate change, or anything else that you are working on? We are looking for guest authors for this website. Please get in touch to bring your voice to our food citizenship platform (anna@foodethicscouncil.org).
  3. Do you want to organise your own food citizenship event? From team and community meetings to industry conferences, provide a space to reimagine how your particular area of work can be reframed with food citizenship.
  4. Do you have any ideas, opportunities, funding, to continue our gatherings? How can we continue the rich conversations we started on the 2nd October? Shall we co-organise pop-up events across the country? Is twitter enough to keep us connecting with one another? Can we explore webinars as a format to engage with one another?

See you all again soon!

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