From Food Consumer to Food Citizen

Jessica Sinclair-Taylor and Lucy Antal from Feedback advise us on how to reconnect with the value of food

The label ‘consumer’ is an odd one – not everyone thinks of themselves as a passive consumer of things, but big food businesses regularly label their customers that way. And labels matter: Our food system’s ‘consumer culture’, was created by the big food businesses who control it. Consumer culture has got out of control - it eats our limited planetary resources far faster than they can regenerate.

The way that our food is produced is responsible for some of our biggest environmental impacts – forests are cut down, soils are exhausted, intensive fish farming pollutes freshwater. Yet we rarely see these massive environmental impacts with our own eyes – they’re hidden behind the operations of vast companies.

We’ve lost the connection to the land and to how food is produced.

But food remains something that plays a role in our lives beyond nutrition, it’s a way to socialise and to nourish the senses and psyche. It can also be a way to express our beliefs about the world, the environment and how we believe the planet should be treated.

Feedback is a campaign group that asks: what if we started thinking of ourselves as food citizens, rather than passive consumers?

We work to regenerate nature by transforming our food system. We challenge power, catalyse action and empower people to achieve positive change.

For example, during 2018, we started work on a project which seeks to create a better food economy for a sustainable future in the north west of England. We want to pilot a circular food system that has shorter, regional supply chains, minimises waste and maximises the use of surplus food.

We’re currently creating the Alchemic Kitchen which is an experimental development space that takes food in danger of being wasted and transforms it into new products, such as sauces, breads, and pickles, for a wholesale market.

We work with local farmers, growers and food producers; support other social enterprises; and encourage communities to develop new skills through workshops and events that demonstrate how they can learn new food skills and make a difference as an individual.

Feedback’s Food Citizen campaign has come up with six simple steps to follow to lead us towards Food Citizenship.

Six simple steps to follow for Food Citizenship:

  1. Try and eat food that is better for your health and the planet: that usually means lots of fresh, healthy, in season and locally grown fruit and veg, and less meat and dairy products.

  2. Support the food economy of your region, and get involved in it where you can: is there a local Community Supported Agricultural scheme you could join or volunteer with, in exchange for some fresh produce?

  3. Be picky when shopping, avoid waste: only buy products where you’re happy with where they’ve come from, and always follow the maxim ‘buy what you’ll eat, eat what you buy’ to avoid over-purchasing.

  4. Question the status quo, demand what YOU want from food retailers: retailers hold enormous power in our food system. Don’t be afraid to tell your supermarket or another food supplier what you expect from them, whether it’s related to food waste or clear labelling.

  5. Use surplus food as a way to connect with others in your community: most local communities have food collection and donation schemes, such as OLIO, food banks or Too Good To Go.

  6. Find your voice, talk to your friends, share and spread the movement: sometimes, talking to others about what you believe is the most powerful thing you can do.

Sign up with Feedback to find out more.

Follow @feedbackorg and @alchemickitchen on Twitter.

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