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Food Citizen

Food Citizen ProjectPublic Opinion Surveys: Results

What is a “food citizen?”

A food citizen is more than a conscious consumer. A food citizen understands the wide-reaching impact of his or her decisions about what and where to eat—and is inclined to vote accordingly. A food citizen:

  • Is actively aware of food system issues
  • Employs socially and environmentally conscious decision-making
  • Supports a democratic process of involving people within food system dynamics
  • Chooses food based on its origin, how it’s produced, and who’s producing it
  • Influences many aspects of the food system, including socioeconomic justice and environmental sustainability

“Citizen” versus “consumer”

“Consumer” implies a passive identity, which undermines the value and function of the individual. A food “consumer” label suggests minimal (or no) involvement in how one’s food is produced and processed. Consumers face limited choice and are forced to accept what is made available—a diet that is the result of a food system that erodes public health, degrades our ecosystems, and takes advantage of the poor and marginalized. In contrast, a “citizen” is informed, deliberate, and active.

How can food citizenship bring about positive change?

We must understand what people know about the food system and how they perceive key issues in order to bring about change and move toward a healthy, equitable and more ecologically sustainable food system. Answers to these questions will provide tremendous insight: 

  • How can scientists and advocates best address public health and environmental concerns embedded in the food system?
  • Which aspects of a more equitable system do people consider most important?
  • How willing are consumers/citizens to pay more for sustainable foods?
  • What are the perceptions about the benefits of the current food system versus a more sustainable system?

What is the Food Citizen Project?

The Center’s Food Citizen Project is an ongoing public opinion research project that gathers important information about perceptions and attitudes toward food production. The Food Citizen Project includes:

  • Regular, multi-year focus groups and scientific polling to determine public attitudes about a variety of food system issues.
  • Communication of results through collaboration with the Center’s partners to policymakers at all levels and to groups striving to improve the food system.
  • Outreach at forums, briefings, and an aggressive, strategic media relations plan.
  • As data is collected, and analyzed, trends can be identified that show food citizen knowledge and perceptions about food production and consumption issues.

What are the Food Citizen Project’s goals?

  • To provide critical information to everyone who is working toward positive change in the food system.
  • To understand food citizen opinions and interests to inform policy and the news media on important issues free from industry-backed lobbying interests.
  • To understand food system trends by compiling a rich database of public opinion.

The Project is integrated across the Center’s programs to gather information that will both inform and strengthen our program work, and help the Center communicate to all working to reform the United States food system.