Manual: Community Food Assessment in your neighborhood

Posted by on August 12, 2013

How Healthy Is Your City’s Food Landscape?
Cities and towns are finding out—and building community—through community food assessments.

From 2011 to 2012, Susan Sides, Cameron Farlow, and numerous volunteers were ubiquitous around town the town of Fairview, NC, sitting outside popular restaurants, tracking people down in the library, and leading group conversations. Their mission? Find out how residents of Fairview—a town of 8,000 just outside of Ashville—view their ability to “buy, store, grow, prepare and enjoy healthful food.”

Sides serves as executive director of The Lord’s Acre, whose mission, according to her, is to “build community by growing food and giving it away” in a part of the state where a staggering 29 percent of children under 18 are food insecure. Committed to setting its strategy based on actual needs in the community, Sides teamed up with Farlow, an AmeriCorps volunteer, to write a community food assessment for Fairview. The results would, as Sides says, help The Lord’s Acre (which gives away food it grows through its pantry) create an accurate map of both Fairview’s food resources and needs, and hopefully lead to policies that would make quality food accessible to more residents.

“We wanted to make sure we were listening to the whole community, not just the pantry clients,” Sides tells TakePart.

This focus on the entire community—not just low-income neighbors—is a common theme in the groundswell of community food assessments that have popped up in cities over the last decade, says Andy Fisher. Fisher, while a graduate student at UCLA, cowrote the first community food assessment. A few years later, he co-wrote a  manual about conducting assessments while Executive Director of the Community Food Security Coalition, which he founded and ran for 17 years. CFSC assisted numerous communities in conducting assessments of their food landscapes before it closed its doors last year. Assessments might focus on urban agriculture, entire counties, food access, or more farm-centered issues, Fisher says, but he adds that in city after city, the process proves just as important as the final assessment.


More in "New Resources"

Stay Current in Philly's Higher Education and Nonprofit Sector

We compile a weekly email with local events, resources, national conferences, calls for proposals, grant, volunteer and job opportunities in the higher education and nonprofit sectors.