Sustainability awareness and agency in food

The sustainability of the food system is one of the most significant challenges of the modern world. Most efforts to address such challenges have been in the realm of production, at the expense of a focus on consumption. Sustainable consumption, however, has gained recognition in policy and academic circles in recent years.

This project will analyse the awareness and agency of sustainability issues of a variety of food consumers, with the aim of understanding opportunities and obstacles for sustainable food behaviours. This research endeavours to engage with some current assumptions about (sustainable) food citizenship and understand its drivers, strategies and outcomes.

People’s relationship with food is highly complex, comprising of biological, cultural, individual and collective aspects. Much of the research on food overlooks this multidimensional character, thus this research seeks to explicate on these complexities. It seeks to uncover the conditions that are necessary for people to desire and enact sustainable change. Such conditions, however, are not only influenced by the wider structural economic and political systems, but also individual and shared attitudes, values and efficacy. These psychosocial factors, referred to as the ‘inner dimension of sustainability’, have been under-researched and could shed light onto how people can become agents of change.

The research aims to understand what drives people to purchase sustainable produce, grow their own food or voice their concerns to food providers and how they do this. By looking at various food procurement environments, from supermarkets to community gardens, this research takes a novel approach to identify potential opportunities and strategies that are hitherto unclear. Sustainable consumption will only succeed if individuals are empowered and mobilised to take action in a bottom-up approach. It is this active citizenship that is of interest in this research. This research, therefore, seeks to understand how such sustainable food behaviours create a new form of citizenship based on collective transformative processes.

Participatory photography will form the basis of semi-structured interviews and focus groups with participants in Cardiff and the Netherlands.

Key words: sustainable food, food citizenship, sustainable behaviour, sustainable consumption, consumer behaviour

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Researcher: Marie Quinney