Engaging Consumers’ Sense of Place through Food Citizenship
Participating in urban gardening and community supported agriculture, eating locally-grown food and shopping at alternative food outlets (e.g., local farmers’ markets, food cooperatives, or produce stands) are all activities that constitute food citizenship. As a set of behaviors, food citizenship represents consumers’ psychological commitment to public health and human wellbeing. However, there is a gap between consumers’ attitudes about food citizenship and their actual engagement in related behaviors, which is a commonly noted issue in consumer psychology.
In this research, we explore what motivates consumers to engage in food citizenship and how such behaviors help consumers to psychologically reconnect with agriculture and food production by increasing their sense of place. Our qualitative and quantitative findings indicate that consumers engage in food citizenship to learn more about their food systems. Consistent with prior research, we find that food citizenship increases consumers’ sense of place. However, consumers’ sense of place is not only psychological in nature but also shaped by their everyday physical and online experiences. In other words, both the social and environmental elements of food citizenship can enhance or diminish consumers’ sense of place.
Our findings suggest that the disconnection consumers feel from agriculture and food production can be repaired. Local food systems can help consumers to establish a sense of place by providing them with opportunities for engaging in food citizenship and rekindling a connection to agriculture. Food citizenship also enables consumers to experience community and seasonality through a symbiotic relationship with local agricultural production rather than as merely its end users. In this way, the gap between consumers’ food citizenship attitudes and behaviors can be reduced.