Community Food Security
Community food security has roots in disciplines such 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
- 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.
- To promote comprehensive responses to local food, farm, and
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.
Recent ERS Research
Local Food Systems:
Concepts, Impacts, and Issues--This comprehensive overview of
local food systems explores alternative definitions of local food,
estimates market size and reach, describes the characteristics of
local consumers and producers, and examines early indications of
the economic and health impacts of local food systems. Statistics
suggest that local food markets account for a small, but growing,
share of U.S. agricultural production. For smaller farms, direct
marketing to consumers accounts for a higher percentage of their
sales than for larger farms.
Environment Atlas--Food environment factors-such as
store/restaurant proximity, food prices, food and nutrition
assistance programs, and community characteristics-interact to
influence food choices and diet quality. The Food Environment Atlas
assembles statistics on food environment indicators to stimulate
research on the determinants of food choices and diet quality and
provides a spatial overview of a community's ability to access
healthy food and its success in doing so. The Atlas currently
includes over 160 indicators of the food environment in three broad
categories-food choices, health and well-being, and community
Access to Affordable
and Nutritious Food: Measuring and Understanding Food Deserts and
Their Consequences--This report summarizes findings of a
national-level assessment of the extent and characteristics of food
deserts-areas with limited access to affordable and nutritious
food, analysis of the consequences of food deserts, lessons learned
from related federal programs, and a discussion of policy options
for alleviating the effects of food deserts. Overall, findings show
that a small percentage of consumers are constrained in their
ability to access affordable nutritious food because they live far
from a supermarket or large grocery store and do not have easy
access to transportation. This report fills a request for a study
of food deserts from the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of
Examples of Strategies and Activities
- Farmers' markets that boost incomes of small
local farmers and increase consumers' access to fresh produce.
- Community-supported agriculture programs that
provide small-scale farmers with economic stability while ensuring
consumer members high-quality produce, often at below retail
- Farm-to-school initiatives that help local farmers sell fresh fruits and
vegetables directly to school meals programs.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
outreach programs such as FNS's Get Involved! that help
increase the number of eligible households that participate in the
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.