food systems terminology

“Artisan is a term used to describe food produced by non-industrialized methods, often handed down through generations but now in danger of being lost. Tastes and processes, such as fermentation, are allowed to develop slowly and naturally, rather than curtailed for mass-production. Artisan producers understand and respect the raw materials with which they work, they know where these materials come from and what is particularly good about them. They have mastered the craft of their particular production and have a historical, experiential, intuitive and scientific understanding of what makes the process that they are engaged in successful. They should know what tastes good and be sensitive to the impact of their production on people and the environment.” The School of Artisan Food

"Agroecology is a way of producing food that mimics nature, using biodiversity and the recycling of resources and nutrients to increase productivity, control pests, eliminate chemical inputs and enrich soil. Just an important, it enables marginalized communities not only to produce enough food for themselves and others in a sustainable way but also to ensure that it is distributed fairly, enhancing nutrition and gender, intergenerational and other form of equity." Agroecology Is the Solution to World Hunger by Raj Patel

Artisan / Artisanal


“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.” University at Buffalo, Samina Raja. 

“A cluster of connections of people make with each other as they collaborate to create new food systems. This term focuses more on the strength and efficacy of the connections people make and is less encompassing than a community food web." - Ken Meter Building Community Food Webs 

“A community food web is a network of community relationships that conveys food from farms to processors to buyers to consumers, while recycling organic wastes to create fertility for local farms. The term focuses on the quality of the relationships among members of the local food networks. At core, community food webs are systems of exchange that strive to bring food producers and food consumers into affinity with each other, for the purposes of fostering community health, wealth, connection and capacity. The most resilient webs are formed through trusting relationships of mutual respect that extend among the people who live and work in each community, and also protect the natural environment. The most effective are those that disperse strategic power across the web, rather than centralizing control at the hub." - Ken Meter Building Community Food Webs

Community Food System 

Community Food NETWORK 

Community Food WEB 

“The area of land and waters within a region from which food is produced in order to deliver nutrition to a population base.”
Roots of Change

“Foodsheds are regionally distinctive, and include the land where crops are grown and animals are raised; the natural water sources that support food production; the facilities that process and distribute the food, the markets that buy it; and the communities that consume the food.” Find Your Foodshed by Bobby Peyton

“Foodways is the study of what, and why we eat with emphasis on food events as much as the food itself. The study of foodways is important to cultural studies, and encompasses issues of race, class, gender, economy, environment, geography, and history, among others.”
Lexicon of Sustainability

"Food traditions that have been passed through your family are more than just recipes – they’re windows into the culture and history of those who came before you." Julia Darnton, Michigan State University Extension 


“Access by individuals to adequate resources for acquiring appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. The utilization of food through adequate diet, clean water, sanitation and health care to reach a state of nutritional well-being where all physiological needs are met.” Food and Agriculture Organization United Nations

“Food is accessible when it is affordable and community members can readily grow or raise it, find it, obtain it, transport it, prepare it, and eat it.” Healthy Food Policy Project 


“I coined the term ‘food apartheid’ to ask us to look at the root causes of inequity in our food system on the basis of race, class, and geography. Let’s face it: healthy, fresh food is accessible in wealthy neighborhoods while unhealthy food abounds in poor neighborhoods. ‘Food apartheid’ underscores that this is the result of decades of discriminatory planning and policy decisions. It begs the question: What are the social inequities that you see, and what are you doing to address them?” Karen Washington, a community activist and urban farmer based in the Bronx, New York.

"It is by design, not accident, she argues, that people of color are denied access to nutritious affordable food, farmland and business opportunities in the food industry." Nina Lakhani, The Guardian 

“Food apartheid is the purposeful segregation of resources, food and capital that creates and sustains stark inequities for disproportionately Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities to access healthy food, build wealth, or leverage collective power to dismantle the systems and policies that perpetuate these inequities.” Solidarity, Not Charity by Qiana Mickie

“Communities experience food insecurity, or disruption of food intake[,] because of lack of money, resources, and food apartheid. Food apartheid results from political and economic decisions rooted in structural racism, which have inequitably led to long-term disinvestment in primarily low-income communities and communities of color.” –The Praxis Project

FOOD Apartheid

“Food culture refers to the practices, attitudes, and beliefs as well as the networks and institutions surrounding the production, distribution and consumption of food.” Lexicon of Sustainability

FOOD culture

“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.” University at Buffalo, Samina Raja

Food Equity

“Communities exercising their right to grow, sell and eat healthy food. Healthy food is fresh, nutritious, affordable, culturally-appropriate and grown locally with care for the well-being of the land, workers and animals. People practicing food justice leads to a strong local food system, self-reliant communities and a healthy environment.” Just Food - NYC

Food Justice

"Food systems encompass the entire range of activities, people and resources and their interlinked value-adding activities involved in the production, aggregation, processing, distribution, consumption and disposal of food products that originate from agriculture, forestry or fisheries, and parts of the broader economic, societal and natural environments in which they are embedded. 

The food system is composed of sub-systems: farming system, waste management system, input supply system, and interacts with other key systems: energy system, trade system, health system. A food system encompasses all the stages of keeping us fed: growing, harvesting, packing, processing, transforming, marketing, consuming and disposing of food." Food and Agriculture Organization United Nations 


"Bringing about food systems change, one person at a time.” Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture


“Food Loss refers to food that gets spilled, spoilt or otherwise lost, or incurs reduction of quality and value during its process in the food supply chain before it reaches its final product stage. Food loss typically takes place at production, post-harvest, processing, and distribution stages in the food supply chain.” Think.Eat.Save. UN Environmental Program


“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” Food and Agricultural Organization, United Nations 

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” – United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security

“Food security includes the dimensions of 1) Availability (having sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis); 2) Access (having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet); 3) Use (appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation); and 4) Stability of these three dimensions.” – Vermont Farm to Plate


“Food waste refers to food that completes the food supply chain up to a final product, of good quality and fit for consumption, but still doesn't get consumed because it is discarded, whether or not after it is left to spoil or expire. Food waste typically (but not exclusively) takes place at retail and consumption stages in the food supply chain.” Think.Eat.Save. UN Environmental Program

“Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care." -Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: What Is Health Equity? (2017)

"Health equity is defined as the absence of unfair and avoidable or remediable differences in health among population groups defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically." -World Health Organization: Social Determinants of Health (2017)

“Hunger is “an uncomfortable or painful physical sensation caused by insufficient consumption of dietary energy. It becomes chronic when the person does not consume a sufficient amount of calories (dietary energy) on a regular basis to lead a normal, active and healthy life.” – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Hunger is “a potential consequence of food insecurity that, because of prolonged, involuntary lack of food, results in discomfort, illness, weakness, or pain that goes beyond the usual uneasy sensation.” – Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies

"Food swamp describes an urban environment where there is a lot of food for sale that is not nutritious, or worse, and therefore is seen to be a threat to public health. This foodscape is typical of the North American food system that is corporate, industrial and increasingly global."  The Conversation, Please Don't Call It A Food Swamp by Sarah Elton 


healthy equity


Food swamp

“Emancipated slaves never received their promised 40 acres and a mule after the Civil War. African-Americans, realizing the 40 acres was not forthcoming, worked to buy their own land after the war—land that served not only as a source of income, but as a bedrock of physical safety and familial stability over generations. That land has since been, in many cases, weaseled away from their heirs through dubious legal maneuvers. And the weaseling continues today.

By the turn of the 20th century, former slaves and their descendants had amassed 14 million acres of land. Black agriculture was a powerhouse; per capita there were more black farmers than white farmers. But by the turn of the 21st century, 90 percent of that land was lost. Some of that can be chalked up to the Great Migration, when southern blacks fled to northern cities to escape the racist violence and systemic oppression of the South.

Less known is the story of those who stayed in rural areas and their efforts to hold on to their land within a legal system that seemed designed to shift it — and the generational wealth it represented — to white ownership.The legal avenues for finagling land from black farmers vary by state and the circumstances surrounding the property and its ownership.” Brian Barth (August 19, 2019) How Did African-American Farmers Lose 90 Percent of Their Land?, Modern Farmer

"Monocropping is the practice of growing the same crop on the same plot of land, year after year. This practice depletes the soil of nutrients (making the soil less productive over time), reduces organic matter in soil and can cause significant erosion. In the US, industrial farming practices often include the rotation of soybeans and corn. Technically, because two crops are in rotation, this does not get classified as a “monoculture.”

However, this “simple” form of crop rotation does not provide the same benefit to the soil as do complex systems (in which three or more crops are rotated over a period of one year or longer). When crops are grown in complex rotation, yields go up by as much as 10 percent in a non-drought year. Monocropping, or even the “simple” crop rotation mentioned above, causes a cascade of problems, necessitating not only the use of synthetic fertilizers (because soil becomes depleted), but also the use of pesticides to control pests, like soil fungi, insects and other agricultural nuisances.

Fields that include a diversity of crops (polyculture) are less attractive to insect predators. Soil scientists have also discovered that monocropping alters the microbial landscape of soil, decreasing beneficial microbes and causing poor plant growth over time." How Industrialized Agriculture Affects Our Soil, FoodPrint  

"An organizing model that integrates participants who have common interests and work together to achieve shared goals" -Collective Mind

"Network management is the facilitation, coordination, and administration that supports and bolsters the network, enabling members to design, develop, and implement activities that achieve the network’s shared purpose.  -Collective Mind

"A Network Weaver is someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there's potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups." - June Holley



Network WEAVER 



“Food deserts can be described as geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance.

Food Empowerment Project (F.E.P.) recognizes the problem with the term food desert, defined by the USDA as mostly being about proximity to food providers, rather than considering other factors such as racism, cost of living, people being time poor and cash poor, cultural appropriateness of available foods, the ability of people to grow their owns foods, etc. F.E.P. considers terms like food apartheid and food oppression to be more accurate.” Food Empowerment Project


“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demand of markets and corporations.” Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007. The term food sovereignty was first introduced by La Via Campesina in 1993

“At the 1996 World Food Summit La Via Campesina put words to its vision to oppose the destructive capitalist industrial model that is causing hunger, inequality, and the climate crisis by defining "food sovereignty". Food sovereignty is the right of people to autonomously produce healthy, nutritious, climatically, and culturally appropriate food, using local resources and through agro-ecological means, primarily to address the local food needs of their communities. Food sovereignty is also necessary to guarantee food security.” La Via Campesina 

Food sovereignty

“Waste justice frames waste management as a political and ethical issue, addressing the differentiated responsibilities and disproportionate impacts of communities involved in the creation and disposal of waste. This framing allows us to be critical of our disconnect from waste and habits of consumption, as well as promote the health and wellness of all beings now and in the future.” The Dish Project 

"A political, economic, and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings. - Ansley, F.L. (1997) ‘White Supremacy (And What We Should Do about It)’, in R. Delgado and J. Stefancic (eds) Critical White Studies: Looking Behind the Mirror, pp. 592–55. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. (Cited in David Gillborn: Rethinking White Supremacy: Who Counts in ‘WhiteWorld’ (2006))

        Waste Justice

        White supremacy

“Is a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food system more closely by allowing the consumer to subscribe to the harvest of a certain farm or group of farms. It is an alternative socioeconomic model of agriculture and food distribution that allows the producer and consumer to share the risks of farming. The model is a subcategory of civic agriculture that has an overarching goal of strengthening a sense of community through local markets.” Wikipedia 

“CSA programs date back to the 1970s, when Black farmers in the South began what was known as “Clientele Membership Clubs,” although it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that farm shares began to catch on as a business model for small farmers and as a way for consumers to buy produce.” Bridget Shirvell (March 10, 2021) Will the CSA Boom Survive Beyond the Pandemic?, Civil Eats

Community Supported Agriculture
(or Fishery) (CSA or CSF)

“The extent to which market shares are concentrated between a small number of firms; e.g. when only a few companies control all of beef processing.” National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 


“The combination of several business units or different companies into a single, larger organization; e.g. when a single company owns the cattle, the stockyards, the trucking company, the processing plant, and the distribution through retail.” National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition 

"This is equity: just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. Unlocking the promise of the nation by unleashing the promise in us all." -PolicyLink: The Equity Manifesto (2018)

Externalities costs not included in the market price, are called external costs, or “externalities”. An externality is “a cost or benefit not transmitted through prices that is incurred by a party who did not agree to the action causing the cost or benefit”.

General types of externalities associated with food include ecological effects, environmental quality, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, animal welfare, social costs associated with labor, and public health effects.” The External Costs of Food by Jack Kittredge 




“The Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) Fair Food Program is a unique partnership among farmers, farmworkers, and retail food companies that ensures humane wages and working conditions for the workers who pick fruits and vegetables on participating farms. It harnesses the power of consumer demand to give farmworkers a voice in the decisions that affect their lives, and to eliminate the longstanding abuses that have plagued agriculture for generations.

The Program has been called “the best workplace-monitoring program” in the US in the New York Times, and “one of the great human rights success stories of our day” in the Washington Post, and has won widespread recognition for its unique effectiveness from a broad spectrum of human rights observers, from the United Nations to the White House.” Fair Food Program

Fair Food Program 

“The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) is a federally funded program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS). SNAP offers nutrition assistance to eligible individuals and families and allows recipients to purchase healthy, nutritious food at participating entities. SNAP benefits are deposited monthly to an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) account. Account holders are given a plastic EBT card that can be swiped like a regular credit/debit card.” End Hunger Connecticut 

"Structural Racism in the U.S. is the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It is a system of hierarchy and inequity, primarily characterized by white supremacy – the preferential treatment, privilege and power for white people at the expense of Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Arab and other racially oppressed people." -Keith Lawrence & Terry Keleher: Chronic Disparity: Strong and Pervasive Evidence of Racial Inequalities (2004)

True Cost Accounting “A good working definition for me is that True Cost Accounting is an initiative aimed at expanding our current economic methods for understanding the diverse impacts of various [food] production systems,” Anna Aspenson, Can True Cost Accounting Tell Us More Than a Price Tag, by Lisa Elaine Held

“True Cost Accounting is the practice that accounts for all external costs - including environmental, social and economic - generated by the creation of a product.” The Lexicon of Sustainability  

Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP)

Stuctural racism

true cost accounting

“The indigenous universal connection is the idea that you absolutely need to be part of the natural cycles around you, whether they’re negative or positive. You need to adjust to them. You’re part of that system. You need to become embraced in that system in order to create not only a healthy food system, but also healthy people, a healthy environment, and a happy mental state.” A-dae Romero-Briones is Cochiti, Kiowa and the Director of Programs: Agriculture and Food Systems for the First Nations Development Institute


“At the heart of the concept regeneration is wanting to renew and correct some of the missteps that have taken us to the point of environmental damage and degradation. We want to create systems that are rebirthing a healthy environment. In order to do that, we need to include Indigenous People. So, my definition of regenerative agriculture is one that includes a true history of land and the environment and people’s health that starts prior to contact.” A-dae Romero-Briones is Cochiti, Kiowa and the Director of Programs: Agriculture and Food Systems for the First Nations Development Institute

"An ideal regional food system describes a system in which as much food as possible to meet the population’s food needs is produced, processed, distributed, and purchased at multiple levels and scales within the region, resulting in maximum resilience, minimum importation, and significant economic and social return to all stakeholders in the region. This is known as “self-reliance”—as opposed to “self-sufficiency” wherein everything eaten is supplied within the target area.

We see that local is a necessary but not sufficient component of a regional food system. Regional is larger geographically and in terms of functions—volume/supply, food needs, variety, supply chains, markets, land use, and policy. A regional food system includes multiple “locals” within a state, and those that cross state boundaries. Regional food systems operate in relation to other regions as well as to the national and global food systems." Kate Clancy and Katherine Ruhf, Choices; The Magazine of Food, Farm and Resources



“Regenerative Agriculture is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. By capturing carbon in soil and aboveground biomass, Regenerative Agriculture aims to reverse global climate change. At the same time, it offers increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for farming communities.” Terra Genesis International