Healthy Community Food System Education

The food system and its relationship with health, society and the environment form a larger, interconnected whole. An understanding of how these connected parts are related, and how changing one part might affect the others, is essential to any attempt to foster change in the food system.

Through understanding—and working with—the food system, health advocates, scientists, researchers, farmers, policymakers, business owners and otherwise engaged citizens can foster positive changes, such as:

  • Promoting healthier diets;
  • Reducing the risk of foodborne illness and other diseases;
  • Upholding workers’ rights;
  • Supporting small businesses;
  • Conserving natural resources;
  • Mitigating climate change;
  • Improving air, water and soil quality;
  • Protecting animal welfare.

While the ultimate goals of this project are to meet Field to Family’s mission to create a more local, more healthy and more sustainable food system– which will get us closer to achieving the list above– the goals of this specific program is to increase awareness in the region (Johnson County, Iowa & contiguous counties) of the basic components of a healthy community food system, identify individuals and entities currently part of our local food system and to showcase healthy components of our current food system.

Field to Family has created a working group for this project and their plans include gathering stakeholders in our current food system together to propel this project forward. If you are interested in being a part of this project, please contact Michelle Kenyon, Field to Family’s Program Director.

Resources available for this program include curriculum from John Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, the Johnson County Public Health Department’s Food Systems Assessment released in 2013 and food system educational art from The Community and Regional Food Systems Project.

General food system information & definitions from the Iowa Department of Public Health:

A food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population: growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consumption, and disposal of food and food-related items.

A foodshed is a geographic region in which there is a flow of food from where it is grown to a place where it is consumed. This also includes the land on which it is grown, the routes it travels, the markets it passes through and ultimately the tables on which it is served. A food shed is similar to a watershed in that foodsheds outline the flow of food feeding a particular population, whereas watersheds outline the flow of water draining to a particular location.

A community food system is a food system in which food production, transformation, distribution, consumption, and waste management are interconnected to enhance the human, environmental, social and economic health of a particular geographic area. A community food system can refer to a neighborhood, town, city, county, region or bioregion. Community food systems may be used interchangeably with “local” or “regional” food systems. However, “community” places an emphasis on strengthening existing (or developing new) relationships between all components and stakeholders of the food system. Approaching food systems from a community lens offers a framework of sustainability- the capacity of being maintained over the long term while meeting the needs of the present without jeopardizing the ability to meet the needs of future generations. A food system also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps. A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic, and environmental contexts. It also requires human resources that provide labor, research, and education.