What is Community Food Security?

Community food security is about making healthy food accessible to all.

farmers market 2


Community Food Security is a condition in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally appropriate, nutritionally sound diet through an economically and environmentally sustainable food system that promotes community self-reliance and social justice.

(Based on a definition by Mike Hamm and Anne Bellows)

At a basic level, Community Food Security is about making healthy food accessible to all. It focuses on bringing fresh, local food into low-income communities, thereby reducing hunger, and improving individual health. But, as the definition above suggests, it’s about much more than that.

Community Food Security is about:

  • making nutritious and culturally appropriate food accessible, not just any food
  • supporting local, regional, family-scale, and sustainable food production
  • building and revitalizing local communities and economies
  • providing fair wages and decent working conditions for farmers and food system workers
  • promoting social justice and more equitable access to resources
  • empowering diverse people to work together to create positive changes in the food system and their communities.

To learn more about Community Food Security, see the resources below, as well as each of the individual Community Food Security topics of the Food Security Learning Center. Also check out the Six Basic Principles of Community Food Security and many additional resources from the Community Food Security Coalition.

What is the Community Food Security Coalition?
The Community Food Security Coalition (CFSC) is a North American organization of over 300 member groups representing social and economic justice, environmental, nutrition, sustainable agriculture, community development, labor, anti-poverty, anti-hunger, and other interests. CFSC provides leadership, vision, and support to the Community Food Security movement through a comprehensive blend of training, networking, education, and advocacy. CFSC is a partner with WhyHunger on the Food Security Learning Center and is the original author and ongoing contributor to the eight Community Food Security topics of the Learning Center.

Selected Links & Resources:

A lively and practical national listserve focused on Community Food security issues.

Center for Food and Justice
CFJ engages in collaborative action strategies, community capacity-building, and research and education with its vision of a sustainable and socially just food system.

Community Food Security Coalition
CFSC provides links, resources and publications dealing with a variety of food system issues, including information on training and technical assistance programs and funding. Also includes the latest policy and advocacy efforts in the field of Community Food Security.

Food First
The Institute for Food and Development Policy – Food First “ carries out research, analysis, advocacy and education for informed citizen engagement with the institutions and policies that control production, distribution and access to food.

Food and Society
Food and Society is an initiative of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation that focuses on funding to serve the social movements catalyzing a shift in the food system. The site contains helpful publications, including information on communicating on food system issues.

Slow Food USA
Slow Food attempts to create a robust, active movement that protects taste, culture and the environment as universal social values. Slow Food programs are dedicated to the mingling of taste, culture and the environment. Each local chapter advocates sustainability and bio-diversity through educational events and public outreach that promote the appreciation and consumption of seasonal and local foods and the support of those who produce them.

USDA Community Food Projects
The USDA operates programs to fight food insecurity through developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities. They are designed to increase food security in communities by bringing the whole food system together to assess strengths, establish linkages, and create systems that improve the self-reliance of community members over their food needs.The Community Food Projects Competitive Grant Program of the USDA has existed since 1996 as a program to fight food insecurity through developing community food projects that help promote the self-sufficiency of low-income communities.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is the former Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service (CSREES)
NIFA’s mission is to advance knowledge for agriculture, the environment, human health and well-being, and communities by supporting research, education, and extension programs in the Land-Grant University System and other partner organizations. NIFA does not perform actual research, education, and extension but rather helps fund it at the state and local level and provides program leadership in these areas.

Also see the following Food Security Learning Center topics:

Community Food Assessment

Community Gardens

Community Supported Agriculture

Farm to Cafeteria

Farmers’ Markets

Food Policy Councils

Land Use Planning

Local & Regional Food Systems

Race & the Food System

Selected Readings:

Breaking Ground: The Community Food Security Movement, Christine Ahn, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy, 2004.

Community Food Security 101: Whats the Food System Got to Do with It? (PDF), Amy Matthews and Bridget Murphy, Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellows, Association of Arizona Food Banks and the Community Food Bank of Tucson, January 2003.

Community Food Security in United States Cities: A Survey of the Relevant Scientific Literature, Stephen A. Haering, MD, MPH Shamsuzzoha B. Syed, MD, MPH, DPH, Fall 2009.

CFS Programs Improve Food Access, (PDF), United States Department of Agriculture, 2001.

Community Organizing as an Important Tool for Building the CFS Movement, Michelle Mascarenhas, Community Food Security News, Spring 2004, p.12.

Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket, Brian Halweil, Norton/Worldwatch Books, Washington, DC, 2004.

A Primer on Community Food Systems: Linking Food, Nutrition and Agriculture, Jennifer Wilkins and Marcia Eames-Sheavly, Cornell University.

Seeds of Hope: Feeding the World Through Community-Based Food Systems, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, 2002.

Time is Ripe for Urban Agriculture, Neal Pierce, The Seattle Times, May 23, 2005.

US-Based Community Food Security: Influences, Practice, Debate , (PDF), Anne Bellows and Michael Hamm, Journal for the Study of Food and Society, Volume 6, No.1, Winter 2002.

Why Homeland Security Must Include Food Security, Peter Mann, WHY Speaks, 2001.

What is Community Food Security?, Andy Fisher, Community Food Security Coalition, reprinted in WHY Speaks, 2003.


This project is supported by the Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Program of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA Grant # 2009-33800-20201

Updated 11/2010