In a wider lens, food systems are defined to be “the public policy decisions; the national and global systems and supply chains; and the individuals and groups – public and private – that influence what we eat ”¹. This can then be boiled down to or better described as the interconnected systems and processes that influence the nutrition, food, health, community development, and agriculture around us every day. Food systems work to establish our diets and all of what we eat on a daily basis. It is because of these systems that we have opportunities for good nutrition and food access. Food is an important facet of all of our lives, as it connects us to our communities, our environment, our sense of self, and much more.
A sustainable food system is dynamic as all cycles affect each other. Additionally, it must also be consistent for its user. That stability is emphasized through its profitability, its benefit to society, and the positive or neutral impact it has on the environment and our natural resources. After understanding this, we can also examine regional food systems. These systems can be separated into three main categories: the business sector, the nonprofit sector, and the government sector. A business sector is focused on the functional aspects of the food systems and works with things like food production, processing, distribution, markets, and waste. The nonprofit sector of a regional system comprises the social aspects of food systems and includes things like food assistance, networks, community organizing, and public health. Lastly, the government sector of a food system is the structural element of the food system that influences the big picture of how our systems function. Government sectors focus on policy, education, and regulatory activities as well.
Often in the United States, people of color experience food insecurity at a higher rate compared to their white counterparts², as studied by the American Center for Progress. As we take a closer look we must recognize that marginalized communities have poor availability of healthy and nutritious foods and insufficient transportation to outsource their foods from other communities or nearby areas. Food insecurity is a serious issue that can severely impact the lives of those affected, especially children. Food insecurity can lead to poor performance in schools, behavior problems, and chronic diseases, such as obesity. Because of this inequality that is heavily rooted in our food systems, the United States has put more on low-income communities of color to ensure a healthy and stable food supply.
You can watch the 2022 Hoosier Health and Wellness Alliance Summit: Building and Sustaining an Equitable Food System here.
Continuing education credits may be available for those who were unable to participate in the live event.