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LT12: Food Systems

Framework Component

Effectiveness & Maintenance - Multi-Sector Impacts

Indicator Description

This indicator is intended to capture statewide and local improvements in the food system that specifically benefit low-income consumers and communities and that are due, in whole or in part, to SNAP-Ed efforts with partners. The changes may occur in the public, nonprofit, and business sectors. Outcomes throughout the food chain are represented, from production through to the consumer. Food system changes in SNAP-Ed eligible settings often are intended to increase access to and appeal of "foods-to-increase" as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and thereby lead to large-scale Population Results (R1-R6).

Background and Context

Disparities in food access, variety, pricing, and quality, along with higher rates of diet-related health problems including food insecurity and obesity, are well documented among low-income consumers and in SNAP-Ed eligible communities. A wide variety of policy solutions has emerged to help resolve contributors to those differences. SNAP, as the largest federal food assistance program, provides economic wherewithal to pay for food (supply), while the SNAP-Ed infrastructure helps develop consumer demand for healthier options. Together, SNAP and SNAP-Ed are a powerful combination that can partner with low-income consumers and other stakeholders to advance adoption of such solutions, help take them to scale, and find new solutions in more communities.

A USDA/ERS report found that a variety of characteristics in local food systems that support local agriculture can benefit both low-income residents and farmers, large and small; it provided national, state, and sub-national examples.1 The ERS report adds to the literature of recommended community strategies, such as those from a Congressional Report on trends in food systems2 of which food policy council (FPC) and food hubs are examples.

Other literature has documented that the availability of supermarkets and certain healthy retail food businesses corresponds with lower rates of obesity and other chronic diseases. The ratio of healthy to unhealthy outlets and ratio of healthy outlets to population are metrics in increasingly common use by planners and economic development agencies.

PSE changes may occur across the food system continuum for locally grown foods, from farm to fork, including attention to the adequacy of food supply systems, facilities, land use, and regulatory activities to support healthy eating, such as permitting, financial incentives, zoning, and enforcement. This indicator includes system-wide changes in planning, financing, sourcing, distribution, marketing, and stakeholder participation that can contribute to SNAP-Ed objectives for individuals, peer groups, and environmental settings where food decisions are made.

Outcome Measures

This indicator quantifies the number of a variety of food system improvements that specifically support SNAP-Ed eligible communities and are due, in whole or in part, to efforts by SNAP-Ed and its partners, including:

What to Measure

The number of data sets containing the food system-related measures for state and local levels is growing, and SNAP-Ed stakeholders will be working together to find ways to collect consistent data so they may be aggregated across state lines and nationally. For SNAP-Ed purposes, some food system metrics will have to be obtained by primary data collection from state, local, or commercial data sources or from partners, and then benchmarked against other statewide or national figures. Whenever original data must be collected, the measures should align as closely as possible-identically, if possible-with definitions used by authoritative national sources.



Surveys and Data Collection Tools

Food systems as a discipline is a rapidly growing and emerging area of public interest. With experience, instruments that are specific to this and other indicators in the interpretive guide will emerge. In particular, the SNAP-Ed Library can be used as a repository for instruments, reports, and other documents, including those for food systems work. Here are some places to begin:

Additional Resources or Supporting Citations

1 Martinez S, Hand M, Da Pra M, Pollack S, Ralston K, Smith T, et al. Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues. ERR 97. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service; May 2010.

2 Low S, Adalja A, Beaulieu E, Key N, Martinez S, Melton A, et al. Trends in U.S. and Local Regional Food Systems, A Report to Congress. AP 068. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service; January 2015.

ChangeLabSolutions-for a variety of reports, instruments and webinars that cover healthy food retail in underserved neighborhoods, community gardens, local permitting, farmers markets, local government initiatives, and more.

Feeding America-for hunger and food banking.

Share Our Strength-for campaigns to end childhood hunger.

Food Research and Action Center-for reports, advocacy, initiatives, state programs, and data about hunger and poverty, food access and costs, nutrition assistance programs.

Center for Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Vermont-for tools that advance smart market and policy systems to help an array of stakeholders.