Screen shot 2015-10-22 at 11.58.36 AMConsumer food behaviour is at the core of a report produced by a team of student researchers at OxPolicy, analysing the food system in Oxford and suggesting ways to shift current production and consumption practices to improve sustainability. Consequently, it puts forward strategies to build awareness and facilitate actions that are appropriate for Oxford and can be implemented by local authorities, charities, community groups, and other concerned stakeholders. It largely focuses on two means of doing so: improving consumers’ knowledge and access to information around food, and bridging the gap between values and actions by providing practical tips on how to eat sustainably easily.

Three actions were highlighted in terms of their impact on sustainability of consumer food behaviour:

  • Reducing consumption of red and white meat is one of the most effective means of lowering the land, water, energy, and carbon footprint of food. One of the strategies for achieving this is through city-wide campaigns to promote meatless options (as implemented in cities including San Francisco, Sao Paulo, and Cape Town), involving citizens, restaurants and caterers, and school and institutional food services.
  • Purchasing food that is in season is another option to lower carbon emissions. Raising the visibility of seasonal and local foods in retailers through better signposting or a separate section could serve as a means of promoting this.
  • Locally produced food contributes to a more diversified and more secure food chain, and consumers are better able to monitor the impacts of their food choices when they are closer to home. A “Made in Oxfordshire” label is suggested as a means to identify local products and what is in season, and catalyze efforts to improve ‘label literacy’.

The Oxford population presents an interesting challenge for behaviour change: on the one hand a higher than average income lends itself to greater consumption of fruit and veg and lower meat, fats, and grains. On the other hand, the high turnover due to the dominance of the university and student population makes longer-term shifts challenging.

Ng, R., Parolin, Z., & Yap, T., eds. 2015. Making Sustainable Food Choices: Influencing Consumer Behaviour for Food Sustainability in Oxford. Oxford: OxPolicy.