Reflections on Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit

This reflection may be filled with more questions than analysis, though it will certainly include that.  However, I see this as an incomplete assessment only. According to the abstract, it contains a toolkit for “assessing various aspects of community food security.”  Nowhere do I see steps to improve the food security and access food security in each community.  With the realities of malnutrition, poverty, unhealthy eating habits, and the woefully inadequate monthly allotment of Food Stamps to eat as healthily as possible that is regularly reported in the news media, I would have liked to see more plans of action, especially ones that involved homesteading.

Overview of Food Insecurity and Hunger.  While initiatives to connect farmers to urban consumers, there is no mention of farm-to-table or farm-to-school initiatives such as farm co-ops just outside of large urban centers and no mention of local farmer’s markets as they exist in several locations across the country (http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/) until much later in the document in a later section, but there is mention of lack of grocery stores in strategic locations.  While this latter point is important, it does not address the issue of healthy food products.  Food insecurity is defined here as access, financial means and prices.  There is discussion of unavailability of local food resources and inadequate food assistance resources, but, again, there is no discussion or plan to address the inadequate allotment of food stamps to enable families and individuals to eat as healthy as possible.

Overview of Community Assessment Process.  The overview includes status of community residents, availability of community resources, and capacity of community resources. Again, this section seems to be incomplete, addressing “Adequacy of supermarkets, barriers to food shopping, modes of transportation, selection and price, and local markets.” (Cohen:  13).  Again, there is no mention of other sources of foodstuffs such as farmer’s markets and co-ops other than supermarkets and local smaller market chains.  The adequacy issue in a local supermarket boils is an market issue.  While I would like to see healthy food in all supermarkets (and only healthy food), each market can only bear the demand from the local neighborhoods otherwise the business will close. While some farmland is being lost, more land is being repurposed to grow foodstuffs.  No where does this document mention assessing teaching the local community to grow their own foodstuff for health and survival.

Data collecting and analysis (qualitative and quantitative).  While I admit that data collection is an important part of assessing the situations in a local community, it is by no means everything and can in no way substitute for all of the residents in that community. I am cautiously respectful of some statistics while wary of others.  If adequate assistance is to be given to each community member, there must be a means to assess the situations of each and all community members and to allow for healthful eating without falling back on the bureaucracy that threatens to consume all of us.

Profile of Community Socioeconomic and Demographic Characteristics.  Again, while these statistics are available readily from the federal government and are a good general indicator, it does not represent everyone in the community.  Policy can be implemented for the majority but in order for local bureaucracies to succeed in improving the lives of local residents, the local bureaucracies must occasionally leave the “safe zone” of their government bureaucracies to truly understand each individual situation.

Profile of Community Food Resources.  Federal nutrition assistance program have their heart in the right place, at least on paper and bureaucratically, but much of the food in these programs is surplus food that the US government pays factory farms to grow in excess.  While it can be considered survival food, it is generally not healthy food.  This section profiles Food Stamps, school meals, and other supplemental programs that assist families, children, and individuals in needs.  This is indeed a subject of a larger discussion, but I do feel that the US government is doing its bare minimum to appear to care.  It is not adequately caring for those in need so that those in need can thrive and grow healthy enough to help themselves and help others rather than just surviving.  And there is certainly little education available to teach low income communities about healthy eating and nutrition (again, not to mention the inadequate funding available to purchase such foodstuffs).  The only adequate and healthy program in the report is the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, but that is hardly publicized.

Source:

Cohen, B., Andrews, M., Kantor, L. Community Food Security Assessment Toolkit. Alexandria, VA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, July 2002.

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