Setting the Table

Traditionally, food supply problems have been seen as a challenge reserved for the world’s poorest countries. But even before the 1990s federal spending cuts, one U.S. child in five was either hungry or nutritionally at risk.

So during the 1990s, a growing stream of practitioners have begun to deal with food insecurity in communities in the United States. From community gardens in Watts, California, to rooftop tomato patches in Chicago’s Englewood district, farmers’ markets in inner-city Austin, Texas, and ecological farms in rural New England, food security has come of age.

Community food security (CFS), a banner concept that links together a large number of disparate emerging projects, means all people have access to a nutritious diet that comes from ecologically sound, local, non-emergency sources. The growth of CFS has focused on two distinct types of local innovations. First are small-scale agricultural projects in the inner city, ranging from local farmers’ markets to organic community gardens.

A second type of CFS innovation consists of small rural farms with strong community links. Dubbed community-supported agriculture (CSA), these organic farms are funded by local consumers in exchange for a season’s worth of crops. In the last 10 years, more than 600 CSA farms have sprouted across the country.

ON FIRST GLANCE, dealing with food access and food supply problems should be the least of America’s problems. The United States has one of the world’s most advanced systems of producing, processing, and distributing food. Outside of commercial channels, food is given away to poor and hungry people through a strong but swamped emergency safety net (often anchored by churches) that operates in diverse needy communities.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 1997
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