Agroecology: The ecology of the entire food system, encompassing ecological, social, and economic dimensions (Francis, 2003).
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): A community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
In a traditional CSA model
- Members share the risks and benefits of food production with the farmer.
- Members buy a share of the farm’s production before each growing season.
- In return, they receive regular distributions of the farm’s bounty throughout the season.
- The farmer receives advance working capital, gains financial security, earns better crop prices, and benefits from the direct marketing plan. (Alternative Farming Systems Information Center, 2021)
Food justice: The struggle against inequality, exploitation and oppression that are found throughout the food system. It encompasses many issues including the opportunity to grow or purchase healthy food, diet- related health disparities, access to land, and wages and working conditions in agriculture, food processing and restaurant work (Glennie and Alkon, 2018).
Food loss: The decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by food suppliers in the chain, excluding retailers, food service providers and consumers. It refers to any food that is discarded, incinerated or otherwise disposed of along the food supply chain from harvest/slaughter/catch up to, but excluding, the retail level, and does not re-enter in any other productive utilization, such as feed or seed (Gustavsson et al, 2011).
Food Sovereignty: The right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produce through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. The policy framework of Food Sovereignty is guided by 7 principles:
- Food as a basic human right
- Genuine agrarian reform
- Protecting natural resources
- Reorganizing food trade
- Ending the globalization of hunger
- Social peace
- Democratic control (Via Campesina, 2007)
Food waste: The decrease in the quantity or quality of food resulting from decisions and actions by retailers, food service providers and consumers. Food is wasted in many ways:
- Fresh produce that deviates from what is considered optimal, for example in terms of shape, size and color, is often removed from the supply chain during sorting operations.
- Foods that are close to, at or beyond the “best-before” date are often discarded by retailers and consumers.
- Large quantities of wholesome edible food are often unused or left over and discarded from household kitchens and eating establishments. (Gustavsson et al, 2011)
Multispecies justice: The rejection of the belief that humans alone merit ethical or political consideration or are superior to or more important than other species. Furthermore, multispecies justice holds that humans cannot be separated from non-human nature. Instead, multispecies justice seeks to understand the types of relationships humans ought to cultivate with more-than-human beings so as to produce just outcomes (Celermajer et al, 2020).
Plant-rich diet: the individual dietary choice to meet daily protein requirements while decreasing meat consumption in favor of plant-based food items (Project Drawdown, 2021).
Sustainable agriculture: integrated system of plant and animal production practices having a site-specific application that will, over the long-term, (A) satisfy human food and fiber needs; (B) enhance environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agriculture economy depends; (C) make the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources and on-farm resources and integrate, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls; (D) sustain the economic viability of farm operations; and (E) enhance the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole. (US Code Title 7, Chapter 64, 2011).
Urban agriculture: A part of a local food system where food is produced within an urban area and marketed to consumers within that area. Urban farming can also include animal husbandry (e.g., breeding and raising livestock), beekeeping, aquaculture (e.g., fish farming), aquaponics (e.g., integrating fish farming and agriculture), and non-food products such as producing seeds, cultivating seedlings, and growing flowers. (EPA, 2021).
Recommended resources to learn more about food systems
- Community gardens & gentrification: A mapping project that explores the relationship between Minneapolis community gardens and the gentrification of neighborhoods. The project was done by Kelsey Poljacik and Rebecca Walker in 2020.
- Foodprint: Foodprint offers an extensive collection of articles about many different aspects of sustainability in the food system. It also has a seasonal food database, a guide to food labels, resources for taking action, and footprint calculators. Foodprint is a project of GRACE Communications Foundation.
- Minnesota Grown: From the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, this site provides a directory of farms, CSAs, and markets in MN. If you are looking for local Minnesota food producers, this is a great place to start.
- National Farm to School Network: an information, advocacy and networking hub for communities working to bring local food sourcing and food and agriculture education into school systems and early care and education environments.
- Nourish Initiative: An educational initiative around food, agriculture, and sustainability. The website includes a collection of short videos and curricular materials to help explore all aspects of the food system. Materials are free, but require an email and zip code to sign up and download. The initiative includes a long list of collaborating organizations.
- North American Traditional Indigenous Food Systems (NāTIFS): A native non-profit founded by The Sioux Chef (listed separately, below) to promote Indigenous foodways education and facilitate Indigenous food access. The website includes a collection of videos about Indigenous foodways and food access.
- Prevent Food Waste: From Dakota County, MN, a guide to reduce food waste in the home. The guide includes downloadable tools to help track waste and plan meals.
- Project Drawdown: This project seeks to help the world reach “drawdown”—the future point in time when levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and start to steadily decline. The site includes 82 solutions to reduce global carbon emissions.
- Save the food: This website offers recipes to use food scraps and food past its prime, meal planning tools, advice, and information on proper storage of different foods. Provided by the National Resources Defense Council.
- Sioux Chef: The Sioux Chef is a team of Anishinaabe, Mdewakanton Dakota, Navajo, Northern Cheyenne, Oglala Lakota, Wahpeton-Sisseton Dakota chefs, ethnobotanists, food preservationists, adventurers, foragers, caterers, event planners, artists, musicians, food truckers and food lovers committed to revitalizing Native American Cuisine. The Community page compiles a list of Indigenous food producers.
- Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) Resources: Resources on sustainable agriculture in the United States, including books, videos, podcasts, fact sheets and other outreach and educational materials. SARE is a program from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the US Department of Agriculture
Aleksandrowicz, L., Green, R., Joy, E. J. M., Smith, P., & Haines, A. (2016). The impacts of dietary change on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, and health: A systematic review. PLOS ONE, 11(11), e0165797. https://doi.org/10.1371/JOURNAL.PONE.0165797
*Allen, P. (2008). Mining for justice in the food system: perceptions, practices, and possibilities. Agriculture and Human Values, 25, 157–161. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10460-008-9120-6
Alternative Farming Systems Information Center. (2021). Community Supported Agriculture. National Agricultural Library, US Department of Agriculture. https://www.nal.usda.gov/legacy/afsic/community-supported-agriculture
Celermajer, D., Schlosberg, D., Rickards, L., Stewart-Harawira, M., Thaler, M., Tschakert, P., Verlie, B., & Winter, C. (2020). Multispecies justice: theories, challenges, and a research agenda for environmental politics. Environmental Politics, 30(1–2), 119–140. https://doi.org/10.1080/09644016.2020.1827608 (open access link)
Donner, S. D. (2007). Surf or turf: A shift from feed to food cultivation could reduce nutrient flux to the Gulf of Mexico. Global Environmental Change, 17, 105–113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.04.005 (open access link)
Elias, M., & Marsh, R. (2020). Innovations in agricultural and food systems sustainability in California. Case Studies in the Environment, 4(1), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1525/CSE.2019.002170 (open access link)
EPA. (2021). Agricultural Crops. EPA. https://www.epa.gov/agriculture/agricultural-crops
FAO. (2021). Food Loss and Food Waste. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. https://www.fao.org/food-loss-and-food-waste/flw-data)
Fernandez, M., Goodall, K., Olson, M., & Méndez, V. E. (2013). Agroecology and alternative agri-food movements in the United States: Toward a sustainable agri-food system. Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, 37, 115–126. https://doi.org/10.1080/10440046.2012.735633
Francis, C., Rickerl, D., Lieblein, G., Salvador, R., Gliessman, S., Wiedenhoeft, M., Breland, T. A., Simmons, S., Creamer, N., Allen, P., Harwood, R., Altieri, M., Salomonsson, L., Flora, C., Helenius, J., & Poincelot, R. (2002). Agroecology: The ecology of food systems. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 22(3), 99–118. https://doi.org/10.1300/J064v22n03_10 (open access link)
Glennie, C., & Alkon, A. H. (2018). Food justice: cultivating the field. Environmental Research Letters, 13(073003). https://doi.org/10.1088/1748-9326/aac4b2
Gustavsson, J., Cederberg, C., Sonesson, U., van Otterdijk, R., & Meybeck, A. (2011). Global food losses and food waste: Extent, causes and prevention. Rome: FAO. https://www.fao.org/3/mb060e/mb060e00.pdf
Hebrok, M., & Boks, C. (2017). Household food waste: drivers and potential intervention points for design-an extensive review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 151, 380–392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2017.03.069 (open access link)
Horst, M., Mcclintock, N., & Hoey, L. (2017). The Intersection of Planning, Urban Agriculture, and Food Justice: A Review of the Literature. Journal of the American Planning Association, 83(3), 277–295. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944363.2017.1322914
Makov, T., Shepon, A., Krones, J., Gupta, C., & Chertow, M. (2020). Social and environmental analysis of food waste abatement via the peer-to-peer sharing economy. Nature Communications, 11, 1156. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14899-5
Minor, T., Astill, G., Skobiansky, S., Thornsbury, S., Buzby, J., Hitaj, C., Kantor, L., Kuchler, F., Ellison, B., Mishra, A., Roe, B., & Richards, T. (2020). Economic drivers of food loss at the farm and pre-retail sectors: A look at the produce supply chain in the United States. Economic Information Bulletin, EIB-216. https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=95778
Nourish. (2020). Food System Tools – Nourish: Food + Community. https://www.nourishlife.org/teach/food-system-tools/
Poljacik, K., & Walker, R. (2020, May 16). Community gardens & gentrification. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/b351f0403da1458a827f8b4e4c4a581b
Project Drawdown. (2021). Food, Agriculture, and Land Use. Project Drawdown. https://drawdown.org/sectors/food-agriculture-land-use
Project Drawdown. (2021). Plant-Rich Diets. Project Drawdown. https://drawdown.org/solutions/plant-rich-diets
Strunk, C., & Lang, U. (2019). Gardening as more than urban agriculture: Perspectives from smaller midwestern cities on urban gardening policies and practices. Case Studies in the Environment, 3(1), 1–8. https://doi.org/10.1525/CSE.2018.001545 (open access link)
TEEB. (2018). Systems thinking: an approach for understanding ‘eco-agri-food systems.’ In TEEB for Agriculture & Food: Scientific and Economic Foundations Report (pp. 17–56). Geneva: UN Environment. http://teebweb.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Foundations_Report_Final_October.pdf
Thompson, P. (2021). The vanishing ethics of husbandry. In B. Bovenkerk & J. Keulartz (Eds.), Animals in Our Midst: The Challenges of Co-existing with Animals in the Anthropocene (pp. 203–222). Springer. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-030-63523-7_12
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education. (2021). Resources and Learning – SARE North Central. https://northcentral.sare.org/resource
United States Government Publishing Office. (2011). U.S.C. Title 7 – AGRICULTURE. United States Code, Title 7 – Agriculture, Chapter 64 – Agricultural Research, Extension, and Teaching. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2011-title7/html/USCODE-2011-title7-chap64.htm
Van Zanten, H. H. E., Van Ittersum, M. K., & De Boer, I. J. M. (2019). The role of farm animals in a circular food system. Global Food Security, 21, 18–22. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.GFS.2019.06.003
Via Campesina. (1996). The Right to Produce and Access to Land. Via Campesina. https://viacampesina.org/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2021/11/1996-Rom-en.pdf
* Reference is behind a paywall. In other cases, I have included an open access link. Check with your library for access to the paywalled article.
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- “Food Systems” – Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash
- “Growing food” – Photo by Zoe Schaeffer on Unsplash
- “Access to food” – Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash
- “Eating food” – Photo by Cloris Ying on Unsplash
- “Food loss” – Photo by Maneno Chidege, Shakil Al-zaidi, Nayem Hassan, Abisgold Julie, Elialilia Kaaya, Sheila Mrogoro, CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons