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Food Systems

A healthy, sustainable food system emphasizes, strengthens, and makes visible the interdependent and inseparable relationships between individual sectors (from production to waste disposal) and characteristics (health-promoting, sustainable, resilient, diverse, fair, economically balanced, and transparent) of the system. Learn about the Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System

CDC Sustainable Food
CDC envisions a food system that provides healthy, sustainable choices, minimizes environmental impacts, and serves as a model for the broader public health community. It is up to you, as a purchaser and consumer, to consider the impact of food from seed to table. Choosing local, healthy, environmentally responsible food helps promote personal health as well as the overall health of the community.

CDC Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity
CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity works to maintain health and prevent chronic disease by promoting healthy eating and active living for Americans of all ages.  We work with state and local partners on community solutions to help increase healthy food choices and connect people to places and opportunities where they can be regularly active.

U.S. Department of Agriculture
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides leadership on food, agriculture, natural resources, rural development, nutrition, and related issues based on public policy, the best available science, and effective management. The USDA has a vision to provide economic opportunity through innovation, helping rural America to thrive; to promote agriculture production that better nourishes Americans while also helping feed others throughout the world; and to preserve our Nation’s natural resources through conservation, restored forests, improved watersheds, and healthy private working lands.

Know Your Farmer Know Your Food
The U.S. Department of Agriculture launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative in 2009. The initiative brings together staff from across USDA to coordinate, share resources, and publicize USDA efforts related to local and regional food systems. See USDA-supported local and regional food projects across the country by visiting our interactive map.

Local Food Directories: National Farmer’s Market Directory
The Farmers Market Directory lists markets that feature two or more farm vendors selling agricultural products directly to customers at a common, recurrent physical location. Maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, the Directory is designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information about farmers market listings to include: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more.

Webinar Series: Planning for Farm to School Success in 2016
reliminary results of the 2015 Farm to School Census tell us that more than 1,700 school districts don’t yet have farm to school programs, but are interested in starting one. We’re here to help! Through this 11-part series, we’ll guide you through the USDA Farm to School Planning Toolkit. Served up in bite-sized 30 minute webinars, we’ll offer questions to consider and helpful resources to reference when starting or growing a farm to school program. Guest speakers will join the webinars to share their hands on farm to school experiences.

Cultivating Collective Action: The Ecology of a Statewide Food Network
This report provides a summary of the findings from interviews with leaders of other statewide and multi-state food networks, and highlights opportunities, challenges, and best practices that emerged through 10 categories that describe the different phases and key activities of a network. Additionally, the report findings are presented through an overarching concept of understanding networks as ecosystems, because the processes at play within food networks mimic many of those found in nature.

Food Policy
Food policy is the area of public policy concerning how food is produced, processed, distributed, and purchased. Food policies are designed to influence the operation of the food and agriculture systems.

Healthy Corner Stores
Health corner stores typically meet set standards to receive the designation. These standards typically include requirements to stock certain items and can sometimes include the amount of shelf space that “healthy items receive”. Additional standards require stores to promote these “healthy” foods, or restrict promoting unhealthy items.

Stock Healthy, Shop Healthy
This comprehensive, community-based program allows communities to improve access to healthy, affordable foods by working with a small food retailer. Millions of Americans have limited access to a supermarket, which means they must rely on fast-food restaurants, gas stations and corner stores to feed themselves and their families. People who have better access to supermarkets are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and less likely to be overweight or obese. Through toolkits, resources and webinars, Stock Healthy, Shop Healthy will guide any community through a unique approach to increasing access to healthy foods that involves engaging small food retailers and community members, and thus addresses supply and demand at the same time.

Growing Food Connections
The overarching goal of this partnership is to enhance community food security while ensuring sustainable and economically viable agriculture and food production. This requires building the capacity of local governments to remove public policy barriers and deploy innovative public policy tools.

Food System Reader
The Growing Food Connections Food Systems Reader is a short collection of published resources that explore local and regional level public policy challenges and opportunities related to the following issues:

  • Community food production: efforts to grow, raise and harvest crops, raise animals, fish, hunt or forage food for human consumption in urban, suburban and rural areas.
  • Community food security: the state in which all members of a community have sufficient and adequate access to healthy, affordable and culturally acceptable food, particularly under-served residents in urban, suburban and rural areas.
  • Community food connections: the challenges and opportunities of simultaneously improving community food production viability and food security for under-served residents.

Stories of Innovation
Beginning in 2012, Growing Food Connections conducted a national scan and identified 299 local governments across the United States that are developing and implementing a range of innovative plans, public programs, regulations, laws, financial investments and other policies to strengthen the food system. GFC conducted exploratory telephone interviews with 20 of these urban and rural local governments. These stories highlight the innovative food systems planning and policy work from some of these communities.

Healthy Food Bank Hub
The Healthy Food Bank Hub supports efforts to increase access to healthful foods (e.g., whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat and fat-free dairy, lean proteins and water) and promote nutrition and wellness throughout the Feeding America network. The Hub provides a platform to share pertinent information, strategies and tools while also showcasing innovative and promising practices that help connect efforts around hunger-relief, nutrition, and health.

Food Insecurity / Food Banking Supervised Practice Concentration
Twenty-three dietetic internship programs piloted tested a new Food Insecurity/Food Banking Supervised Practice Concentration, and it’s now available to all educators! The activities were developed as part of the Academy Foundation’s Future of Food initiative, with a development team of dietetic educators and registered dietician nutritionists (RDNs) from the Feeding America Network. Any of the activities can be used as stand-alone experiences, but the full concentration includes 12 activities to be completed within 120 practice hours. The activities are designed to help interns develop the knowledge and skills necessary for an entry level RDN position in a food bank, and provide the intern with experiences in nutrition education, food bank management, and food systems. The concentration was made possible through an educational grant from National Dairy Council to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation.

A How-To Guide: Nudges
Feeding America has been working with Cornell University on evidence based nutrition education strategies to help increase the consumption of healthy foods by those served across the nation. This resource discusses how small environmental cues or changes in one’s environment, known as “Nudges, can make an impact on food choices and, ultimately, health. This document acts as a how-to guide on utilizing low cost distribution methods for food bank and agency members. Within this toolkit you will find ways to create a strategy that fits a food bank or food pantry’s needs to help make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Feeding Ourselves: Food Access, Health Disparities, and the Pathways to Healthy Native American Communities
This report explores the complex historical and contemporary challenges to Native American healthy food access, childhood obesity, and health disparities. This report encourages its readers to take the first step toward a solution – becoming aware of the extent of the problem of Native health disparities and its deep interconnections to U.S. Indian policy, poverty, historical trauma and food systems. This includes building awareness of the complex historic and present-day situations of Native peoples, innovative models, and how systemic and long-term changes may be supported by policy changes at the tribal, federal, and philanthropic levels.

Reduced-Item Food Audits Based on the Nutrition Environment Measures Surveys
The community food environment may contribute to obesity by influencing food choice. Store and restaurant audits are increasingly common methods for assessing food environments, but are time consuming and costly. A valid, reliable brief measurement tool is needed. The purpose of this study was to develop and validate reduced-item food environment audit tools for stores and restaurants.

Voices for Healthy Kids® Toolkits
This joint initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and American Heart Association (AHA), works to help all young people eat healthier foods and be more active

Minimum Stocking Levels and Marketing Strategies of Healthful Foods for Small Retail Food Stores
This report identifies basic, minimum stocking levels for healthful foods and beverages structured around food categories and nutrition guidelines in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and marketing strategies for product placement, promotion, and pricing that retail food stores should adopt to enhance sales of healthful foods.

The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices
The Toolkit is made up of seven modules that can be grouped into two stages of food system planning, assessment, and evaluation. The first set of modules (1-4) guides the preliminary stages of an impact assessment and includes framing the system, relevant economic activities and assessment process as well as collecting and analyzing relevant primary and secondary data. For those seeking a more robust economic impact assessment, the second set of modules (5-7) provides a more technical set of practices and discussion of how to use the information collected in stage one to conduct a more rigorous analysis.

The Devastating Consequences of Unequal Food Access: The Role of Race and Income in Diabetes (2016)
This is the first study to show that living near healthy food retailers is associated with lower diabetes rates across all U.S. counties. The impact on diabetes rates is even more pronounced in counties with above average populations of color, which is significant given that communities of color are disproportionately affected by this tragic and costly diet-related disease. This report is the second in a series from the Union of Concerned Scientists making the case for a national food policy in coordination with the Plate of the Union campaign.

Food and Nutrition Assistance Research Database
This searchable database now has over 1,000 peer-reviewed reports and articles on food and nutrition assistance-related research conducted by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ErS researchers or funded through ERS

Making Food Systems Part of Your Community Health Needs Assessment
The purpose of the Tackling Hunger Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) Guidance
is to provide hospitals with links to external stakeholders and user-friendly tools and strategies
that help to integrate food security and local food system capacity into their CHNA process.