Key Food System Terms & Definitions

Food SystemThe socio-ecological system that encompasses all the drivers, activities and resources that go into producing, distributing, consuming food and waste disposal. The food system intersects with aspects of public health, culture, society, economics, public policy, and the environment.
Sustainable Food SystemA food system that delivers culturally appropriate food and nutrition for all people at all times in such a way that the social, economic, cultural and ecological basis of food security, nutrition and human well being are enhanced and sustained in perpetuity (UN MDG 2015)
Food System PlanningFood systems planning is the collaborative planning process of developing and implementing local and regional land-use, economic development, public health, transportation, and environmental programs and policies to: (1) preserve existing and support new opportunities for local, regional urban and rural agriculture; (2) promote sustainable agriculture and food production practices; (3) support local and regional food value chains and related infrastructure involved in the processing, packaging, and distribution of food; (4) facilitate community food security, or equitable physical and economic access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and sustainably grown food at all times across a community, especially among vulnerable populations; (5) support and promote good nutrition and health; and 6) facilitate the reduction of solid food-related waste and develop or manage a reuse, recovery, recycling, and disposal system for food waste and related packaging (APA Food Systems 2022)
Sustainable DietA diet that is protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair, and affordable, nutritionally adequate, safe and healthy, while optimizing natural and human resources (Binns et al. 2021).
Food securityWhen all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life (IFPRI 2019; FAO 2020).
High food security No reported indications of food-access problems or limitations (USDA ERS 2019).
Low food securityA household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. Reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet. Little or no indication of reduced food intake (USDA ERS 2019). 
Very low food securityReports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake (i.e. food insecurity with hunger) (USDA ERS 2019). Hunger is an individual-level physiological condition that may result from very low food insecurity (USDA ERS 2019).
VulnerabilityThe likelihood that, at a given time in the future, an individual will have a level of welfare below some norm or benchmark (Harris et al. 2019).
Community food securityCommunity food security is a situation in which all community residents obtain a safe, culturally acceptable, nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice (Pothukuchi 2004). 
ResilienceThe ability of a system to prepare for, resist, and recover from adverse situations (Chodur et al. 2018). The ability to prevent disasters and crises as well as to anticipate, absorb, accommodate or recover from them in a timely, efficient and sustainable manner (FAO 2020). 
Food system resilienceThe capacity over time of a food system to provide sufficient, appropriate and accessible food to all in the face of various biophysical, social or economic disturbances (Tendall et al. 2015; Schipanski et al. 2016; Chodur et al. 2018; FAO 2020).
Food justice A food systems framework and social movement that attempts to ensure that the benefits and risks of how food is grown and processed, transported, distributed, and consumed are shared equitably by society (Gottlieb & Joshi 2010; Alkon and Agyeman 2011).
Social equityJustice and fairness in governance, taking into account historical and current inequalities among groups (Gooden 2015). 
Food system equityA goal, outcome or condition of the food system where the benefits and risks of how food is grown and processed, transported, distributed, and consumed are shared equitably by society (Allen 2010; Gottlieb & Joshi 2010; Alkon and Agyeman 2011; Smith 2019). 
Ecologically sustainable agriculture An agroecosystem that maintains the resource base upon which it depends, relies on a minimum of artificial inputs from outside the farm system, manages pests and diseases through internal regulating mechanisms, and is able to recover from the disturbances caused by cultivation and harvest. Generally, sustainable agricultural practices are modeled based on natural ecosystems or traditional practices that have proven to enhance ecosystem services and successfully provide human sustenance through the test of time (Gliesman, 2001).
Food SovereigntyFood 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 demands of markets and corporations (Declaration of Nyéléni 2007).Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to define their own food and agriculture; to protect and regulate domestic agricultural production and trade in order to achieve sustainable development objectives; to determine the extent to which they want to be self reliant; to restrict the dumping of products in their markets; and to provide local fisheries-based communities the priority in managing the use of and the rights to aquatic resources. Food sovereignty does not negate trade, but rather, it promotes the formulation of trade policies and practices that serve the rights of peoples to safe, healthy and ecologically sustainable production (Patel 2009).