Provoked by concerns about climate change, resource depletion and economic recession, the concept of food security has experienced a renaissance in international policy and research agendas. Despite this interest, the problem of food insecurity in wealthy countries has still not received enough attention. We argue that it is worthy of research and policy focus, because by examining the experiences and perceptions of food security amongst the ‘global rich’, we can develop more critical understandings of the implications of neoliberal constructions of the consumer as a driving force in moves towards more secure food systems. The paper draws on empirical data from shoppers in the United Kingdom to make three key arguments. First, it is important to retain the issue of economic access to food at the heart of discussions of food security, so that the concept is not reduced to the problem of increased agricultural productivity. Second, it is necessary to recognize the importance of food quality to consumer perceptions of household food security. Third, consumers do not necessarily share the neoliberal view that consumer choice is the engine for sustainability and food security. On the contrary, consumers in our research were well aware that food prices and the choices made available are shaped by forces beyond the control of individual shoppers. Overall, they expressed uncertainty about what food security means, about the causes of problems in the food system, and about how should be responsible for ensuring access to affordable food for healthy living, for all.
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- food security
- neo liberalism
- consumer perceptions
- United Kingdom