M. Jahi Chappell explains why focusing on our roles as consumers to change the food system and to address food and agricultural justice is nonsensical.
“Your bio for the IATP states that your work hopes to move toward a food system that “serves and supports both farmers and citizens (not just consumers!).” What’s the difference between a citizen and a consumer, and how do they factor into a sustainable—and just—food system?
This is an important and tricky distinction. While we are all consumers of food—and in that way, the term includes everyone, including farmers—the idea of “voting with our fork” has been amply and rightly critiqued over the years. Figures ranging from Frances Moore Lappé, Marion Nestle, and Josh Viertel have encouraged us to “vote with our vote” and (Lappé in particular) outlined various democratic and participatory actions we can take to improve food systems.
So, here is the basic difference: The term consumer limits our conception of what we can do in terms of what we choose to eat and defines us as humans as the sum of our consumption choices. Besides being an impoverished way to look at our diverse and multifaceted people and communities, it is antidemocratic, and uncreative to boot…”