What are the sectors of a community food system?

Community food systems are comprised of six different components that work in conjunction to produce “good food.”

A community food system has many different components. All of these different sectors need to be present and functioning in order for good food to make it from being produced on the farm to being served on your plate.

Explore these six components below:

Growing: The growing sector produces food using different inputs. There are as many different types of food production systems as there are different kinds of food – from growing organic vegetables to raising pigs for their meat to running an orchard that produces apples. Sustainable food productions systems must be profitable, conserve natural resources and contribute to the local community. Examples of the growing sector include farms, gardens, pastures, and apiaries.

Processing: The processing sector handles, treats or transforms the raw food products to prepare them for consumption. Food processing can be simply cleaning and sorting raw vegetables; canning fruit at home for preservation; the separation of the wheat from the chaff and then grinding it into flour; or it can involve the slaughter of animals, the butchering of the meat and the packaging of the cuts. Processing can also involve a variety of raw ingredients and baking them to make bread. Processing can occur in factories, restaurants, retail stores and our own homes. Effects of food processing can increase or decrease the nutritive value of food, can change the structure of food and can increase the shelf life of food.

Preparing: The preparation of food usually involves a type of processing or technique or to make it ready to eat. Again, it can be as simple as washing and cutting up carrots, to making a simple turkey sandwich, or cooking a complex five course meal.

Eating: Everybody eats to sustain life! Eating consists of the consumption of food products. But eating is also a more significant process that simply consuming food for energy – people identify their culture, celebrate their religion, holidays and life’s big events with food and eating.

Retailing: The retailing sector is involved in the selling of food products directly to consumers, usually in small amounts.

Distributing: The distribution sector of the food systems usually involves the aggregation, moving and delivering of food. This sector can also involve the retailing, marketing and transportation of food.

The Michigan Good Food Charter defines good food as food that is healthy, green, fair and affordable. For more information on good food, see “Defining good food.”

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