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. 

This website is a hub for the movement to learn from one another and nourish each other with ideas, approaches and experiences. It 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 concern.

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 willing 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. We care that all have access to healthy, sustainable food. 

By shifting the way we think of ourselves towards a citizen mindset, where we are active participants in society, we unlock our ability to influence and steer the food system towards one that is resilient and fair for people, animals and the planet. Our power, as a co-ordinated and motivated collective connected by shared values, will change the food system and the economic and political dynamics which underpin it, for the better. That power is growing.

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 our more deeply held values. The more pervasive the idea of the Consumer the more we accept and reinforce a narrow version of ourselves, driven by price and convenience alone.
  • This trap is a root cause of many of the problems of the food system, limiting efforts to change it for the better.
  • 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 idea of humanity is unlocking massive change.

  • It doesn’t have to be this way. Our work shows people can and want to shape the societies we live in, and feel most fulfilled when able to do that. We are Citizens, not just Consumers.
  • If we start from this bigger idea of humanity, we can reimagine every role in the food system – from shareholders to NGOs to government, producers and brands – and approach every debate with new questions, harnessing people power and ideas.
  • 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 food, as in other sectors and industries.
  • We need to equip individuals and organisations to see themselves and others as Food Citizens, so that together we can deliver the significant change the food system needs.

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

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 of inspiration and support for the emerging Food Citizenship movement.

The work of the Food Ethics Council 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.

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

We work 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 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.

The New Citizenship Project 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.