Community Foods: Definitions & Explanations

From Field to Fork: Food Security in Oklahoma
by Maura McDermott

Community Food Security: Issues of Concern

From the USDA Economic Research Service Briefing Room: Community Food Security

Community food security is a relatively new concept with roots in such disciplines as community nutrition, nutrition education, public health, sustainable agriculture, and anti-hunger and community development. There is no universally accepted definition of community food security. In the broadest terms, community food security can be described as a prevention-oriented concept that supports the development and enhancement of sustainable, community-based strategies to improve access of low-income households to healthful nutritious food supplies, to increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, and to promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues.

Policies and programs implemented under the label of community food security address a diverse range of issues, including:

  • Food availability and affordability
  • Direct food marketing
  • Diet-related health problems
  • Participation in and access to federal nutrition assistance programs
  • Ecologically sustainable agricultural production
  • Farmland preservation
  • Economic viability of rural communities
  • Economic opportunity and job security
  • Community development and social cohesion

Six Basic Principles of Community Food Security

From the Community Food Security Coalition
Community food security represents a comprehensive strategy to address many of the ills affecting our society and environment due to an unsustainable and unjust food system. Following are six basic principles of community food security:

Low Income Food Needs - Like the anti-hunger movement, CFS is focused on meeting the food needs of low income communities, reducing hunger and improving individual health.

Broad Goals - CFS addresses a broad range of problems affecting the food system, community development, and the environment such as increasing poverty and hunger, disappearing farmland and family farms, inner city supermarket redlining, rural community disintegration, rampant suburban sprawl, and air and water pollution from unsustainable food production and distribution patterns.

Community Focus - A CFS approach seeks to build up a community's food resources to meet its own needs. These resources may include supermarkets, farmers' markets, gardens, transportation, community-based food processing ventures, and urban farms to name a few.

Self-reliance/Empowerment - Community food security projects emphasize the need to build individuals' abilities to provide for their food needs. Community food security seeks to build upon community and individual assets, rather than focus on their deficiencies. CFS projects seek to engage community residents in all phases of project planning, implementation, and evaluation.

Local Agriculture - A stable local agricultural base is key to a community responsive food system. Farmers need increased access to markets that pay them a decent wage for their labor, and farmland needs planning protection from suburban development. By building stronger ties between farmers and consumers, consumers gain a greater knowledge and appreciation for their food source.

Systems-Oriented - CFS projects typically are "inter-disciplinary," crossing many boundaries and incorporating collaborations with multiple agencies.

What is a food system?

A food system includes food production, processing, and distribution; food access and use by individuals, communities and populations; and food recycling, composting and disposal. Food systems operate at multiple, interrelated levels— community, state, regional, national and global.

If it has to do with food, it is part of the food system. If you eat, you participate in the food system.

CREES logoThis project is supported by the Community Food Projects Program of the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, grant # 2004-33800-15141


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