Community Food Security Key Concepts

The stages of building community food security in the US.

Ken Dahlberg and other food system researchers have described some of the stages of building community food security in the US: terms such as food democracy, sustainability, self-reliance, food sovereignty, and food systems awareness.

Food democracy is the process of ordinary people coming together as citizens to devise ways to improve their communities and society. Through trial and error they also expand their knowledge, skills, and political and moral awareness. They recognize that food and farming systems at all levels are accountable to people, responsible to communities and the environment, and socially just.

Sustainability as it applies to food means that societies pass on to future generations all the elements required to provide healthy food on a regular basis: healthy and diverse environments (soil, water, air, and habitats); healthy, diverse, and freely reproducing seeds, crops, and livestock; and the values, creativity, knowledge, skills, and local institutions that enable societies to adapt effectively to environmental and social changes.

Self-reliance is the process whereby communities, regions, and states build, maintain, enhance, and largely control their social and economic capabilities and resources. It is based on cooperation and a sense of belonging “ both to place and community.

A Food Systems View means analyzing the interrelationships between different level food systems “ household, neighborhood, municipal, regional, etc. “ in terms of their various economic, social, health, power, access, equity, and symbolic dimensions.

A Food Systems View also examines food cycles, including:

  • Production, e.g., agriculture, farmland preservation, farmers markets, household and community gardens, small livestock
  • Processing issues, e.g., local versus external
  • Distribution issues, e.g., transportation, warehousing
  • Access issues, e.g., physical and economic barriers to food; availability of food stores, cafes, and street food; co-ops; school breakfasts and lunches; food stamps, the WIC program and other feeding programs
  • Food-Use issues, e.g., health and nutrition; cooking and food preservation; food safety and handling
  • Food Recycling, e.g., gleaning; food banks; food pantries and soup kitchens
  • Waste-Stream issues, e.g., composting, garbage fed to animals, etc.

See The Citizens’ Network for Michigan Food Democracy for more information.

Adapted from Next Steps Needed to Promote Sustainable Local Food Systems in the USA (A discussion paper based on experience with the Local Food Systems Project, a three-year project funded by the Kellogg Foundation) and other writings by Kenneth A. Dahlberg.