Despite producing 70% of the world’s food, small-scale farmers remain undernourished, as do their neighbors throughout the Global South. Improving food security cannot be done by increasing agricultural production alone; a systems approach is needed to advance access to nutritious, culturally meaningful food. To cultivate food equity, we work with both local stakeholders, such as farm operators, and international influencers, like the UNFAO, studying, developing, and implementing cross-sector policies-in-action.
By Samina Raja
Food equity is the expansive concept that all people have the ability and opportunity to grow and to consume healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods. In an equitable food system, all community members are able to grow, procure, barter, trade, sell, dispose and understand the sources of food in a manner that prioritizes culture, equitable access to land, fair and equitable prices and wages, human health, and ecological sustainability. Food equity requires that food systems be democratically controlled and community stakeholders determine the policies that influence their food system.
A community food system is the soil-to-soil system that enables the production, processing, distribution, acquisition, and consumption of food, and management of food waste. A CFS depends on natural resources, technologies, cultural norms, governance structures, policies and laws that shape and influence how food moves from farm to plate. An equitable CFS enhances the environmental, economic, social, and health equity of a place and its inhabitants. In the Global South, where hunger and malnutrition remain a pressing problem, community food systems are rapidly changing, creating both challenges and opportunities. Because of its complexity and breadth, community food systems are ripe for transdisciplinary scrutiny and innovation.
In cities across the United States and in countries around the world, communities lack the ability and opportunity to access healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods. In particular, food inequity leads to broken food systems that heighten undernourishment and hunger in low- and middle-income countries.