A food access initiative must be relevant to the community in order to make an impact. A comprehensive understanding of the target audience and its specific needs are critical in determining the appropriate initiative and approach.
There is evidence that suggests the presence of a trusted, local community health champion leading initiatives may yield the greatest results. Champions come in many shapes and sizes. They may be a champion who is committed to the issue as well as intentionally involving the targeted community in designing and applying strategies.
Where to establish an initiative is a critical consideration. There is no singular best approach; it is entirely dependent upon the community's needs. In some communities, bolstering an existing or building a new retail environment would yield the greatest results. In other communities, targeting specific demographics may be the best point of intervention, such as targeting:
- Youth with school programming
- Seniors in a variety of settings
- Cultural or religious groups with specific dietary needs
- The local food system
- Local government policies to address issues such as land use, zoning, and natural resources
Some communities may find it most productive to create a community economic development initiative that tackles a variety of factors that go into food access.
Words chosen to characterize or name an event should be carefully selected. Some words are considered to be politically loaded and are best avoided entirely, such as public health and equity. It is best to avoid language that may be considered jargon, which is unpalatable in smaller communities. One word that has been found to be well-received in rural communities is local, which can be paired with everything from economy to farmers to food council to grown food.
Resources to Learn More
Cultural and Ethnic Food and
Nutrition Education Materials: A Resource List for Educators
List of practical resources for those working to educate members of various ethnic/cultural groups about nutrition. Includes an extensive selection of resources available in Spanish.
Organization(s): USDA Food and Nutrition Service
Food Systems and Economic Development - Engaging Community Planners and Local Elected Officials with Local
Food Systems Producers to Integrate Local Food Systems into Community Plans and Policies
Identifies barriers to creating and sustaining local food systems, and proposes policies that local governments can use to address them. Primary focus is on promoting local food systems as an economic development opportunity.
Author(s): Vandehaar, A.
Organization(s): Iowa State University Extension and Outreach
Research Your Community
Interactive mapping tool that allows users to create a report of various data indicators specific to their state, county, city, or zip code. The instrument includes sixty indicators in the following categories: health, demographics, federal programs and investments, and food environment. The site also provides a training webinar on how to use the map.
Organization(s): Healthy Food Access Portal