We believe in people.

Food citizenship is a movement of individuals and organisations across the food system. It is rooted in an increasingly shared belief that people want to and can shape the food system for the better, given the right conditions.

The movement builds on the New Citizenship Project’s Food Citizenship report, and public research gathered by the Food Ethics Council between January 2018 and January 2022.

A new era is emerging in today’s UK food and farming sector: the era of the food citizen.

For too long we, those who buy and eat food, have been thought of as only consumers at the end of a food chain. Our power and our ability to act on our ethical principles has been limited to what we buy and how we buy it. This idea is being challenged.

Our identity, our role in the food system and our relationship with our food and with nature, are all being reassessed, particularly as social and environmental concerns take centre-stage in public interest.

Consumerism drives short-term behaviour, urging us to think in the here-and-now and pushing us to compete for the best deals of the day. But there is an increasing understanding that people are naturally collaborative, open and willing to share.

When we are treated as citizens, our compassionate values build a shared sense of belonging and community which means we are more trusting, more inclined to join with others, and more likely to find the courage to take action. 

As citizens, we care about animals being treated humanely, about the wellbeing of the environment, and about the livelihoods of those who grow and make our food. It matters to us that all have access to healthy, sustainable food. 

By shifting the way we think of ourselves towards a citizen mindset, where we are more active participants in society, we unlock our ability to steer the food system towards one that is resilient and fair for people, animals, and the planet.

We are a coordinated and motivated collective connected by shared values. This is our strength and this will change the food system and the economic and political dynamics which underpin it. Will you join us?

the diagnosis

our food system is stuck because we are thinking small…

  • The idea that people are best understood as Consumers is pervasive throughout the food system, particularly in the language we use.
  • ‘Consumer’ is not a neutral word or idea; it is proven to prime us into behaving with short term, self-interest over more deeply held values such as equality and kindness. The more prevalent the idea of the Consumer the more we accept and reinforce a narrow version of ourselves, driven by price and convenience alone.
  • The current dominant food system is exploitative to the natural world, perpetuates inequities in access to food and benefits a select few.
  • The trap of the consumer is the root cause of many of these problems and limits efforts to address them.
  • As a result, “By most indicators, the challenges facing the food system are getting worse not better” (Food Ethics Council)
  • We need to think bigger.

the vision

expanding our sense of ourselves is unlocking massive change.

  • It doesn’t have to be this way. The food citizenship movement shows that people want to and can shape the societies we live in. We feel most fulfilled when able to do that. We are Citizens, not just Consumers.
  • If we start from this broader understanding of ourselves and each other, we can reimagine every role in the food system, from farmers to NGOs to government.
  • Food Citizenship is a creative opportunity to make our food system fairer and more sustainable, and to build commercial success in a different way. Our report shows it is a trend gathering momentum in the food sector, as well as other sectors and industries.
  • Shifting to the citizenship mindset is hard work since we have been primed in consumerism for so long. This website holds tools, approaches and experiences to help this shift. Our strength is in collaboration. 

Food Citizenship started with the New Citizenship Project’s ten-month inquiry in collaboration with the Food Ethics Council, working with six organisations across the food industry to explore a future Citizen food system. Together, we examined 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.

The next question was how to build a movement that would help the food citizenship mindset grow. Since then, the Food Ethics Council has conducted extensive research on how to accelerate the transition from consumerism to citizenship being the dominant mindset in the food system. It acts as a facilitator to nourish and connect the movement. 

Food Ethics Council

The team at the Food Ethics Council, led by Programme Manager Anna Cura, lead the curation of this website as a hub for inspiration and support for the emerging Food Citizenship movement.

Our work is about transforming the discussion around food and farming, using ethics and values as our foundation, to pave the way to a fair food system that respects people, animals and the planet.

With over 20 years’ experience working in the UK food and farming sector, we bring ethical discourse to the heart of the debate, supported by the extensive networks and expertise of our Council members – leaders in their fields, including social science and ethics, farming, business, policy and food citizenship.

The Food Ethics Council works by challenging the accepted narrative, equipping key changemakers to shift the food system, and promoting ethical practice.

New Citizenship Project

Through 2016 and 2017, the New Citizenship Project (NCP) convened the original project that identified Food Citizenship as an emerging movement. NCP continue to support both the Food Ethics Council and the wider movement as momentum builds.

NCP is a pioneering strategy and innovation company, on a mission to support the shift in the dominant story of the individual in society from Consumer to Citizen. We help organisations do things better (and do better things) because we think of people differently. If you think of people as Consumers, the only thing you can do is sell to them – whether that’s predefined actions to take or products to buy. If you think of people as Citizens, you have to start by asking what your organisation exists to achieve in the first place, and then how people can join in and help you do it: a far more generative and creative starting point.

A crucial part of our approach is Collaborative Innovation: inquiry projects which bring together groups of organisations from across a sector to explore the possibilities and emerging realities of the Citizen mindset for that sector. This was the structure behind the original ten-month inquiry into the potential future of the food system, convened in partnership with the Food Ethics Council, which identified Food Citizenship as an emerging movement.

The Food Citizenship project is generously funded by The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and individual donors.