Community Food Security

Did you know?

27% of the food served in the U.S. is wasted. At the same time, 35 million Americans are hungry or unsure about what or when their next meal might be.

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

  1. Food availability and affordability
  2. Direct food marketing
  3. Diet-related health problems
  4. Participation in and access to federal nutrition assistance programs
  5. Ecologically sustainable agricultural production
  6. Farmland preservation
  7. Economic viability of rural communities
  8. Economic opportunity and job security
  9. 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. 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.

At first glance, some of these topics don’t seem to be related. For instance, what does farmland preservation have to do with diet related health problems? Or direct marketing?

But digging a bit deeper, one can see the connections. In Oklahoma, high rates of obesity and diet-related health problems are due in part to diets with too many high fat, high sugar foods and not enough fresh fruits and vegetables.

Many argue that the best tasting, and therefore most likely to be eaten, fruits and vegetables are those grown nearby – picked ripe, handled properly and served as quickly as possible. When this is done, the nutritional value is high.

In order to have highly palatable, fresh fruits and vegetables close at hand, one must have a viable local agriculture and viable local markets such as farmers’ markets where farmers make direct sales to consumers.

In order to have a viable local agriculture, local farm land must be preserved. Much of the best farmland in the nation surrounds cities, where it at most risk of being lost, converted into subdivisions or industrial parks (this is also true in Oklahoma). Hence, there is a need for farmland preservation programs.

Looking at food and agriculture through the lens of community food security allows one to see the connections between seemingly unrelated issues.

Community food security (CFS) supports the development and enhancement of sustainable, community-based strategies to improve access of low-income households to healthful nutritious food supplies, increase the self-reliance of communities in providing for their own food needs, and promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and nutrition issues.

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


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