A community food assessment brings together people from across the food system to develop a participatory, evidence-based strategic action plan on food for a particular area. Food assessments identify existing food assets, as well as community priorities for future work. Community food assessments have been used as a tool by professional planners in Canada and the United States, and have been seen as a first step in planning for community food security.
Since community food assessments are participatory and are driven by local participants, the types of information that each examine will be different. Nevertheless, there are some similarities between assessments. For example, most have an environmental scan, that looks at the socioeconomic, health, and demography of the participating community. Community resources are identified, and often mapped or charted. Assessments also look at access to and the affordability of food, food production opportunities, social and cultural food diversity, or other issues identified by participating communities.
The goal of a food assessment, however, is not just to prepare a well researched report. It will hopefully do that, but a food assessment’s goal is also to engage communities and decision makers, build relationships, share stories, and mobilize communities to take action on food security. All community food assessments include community identified priorities for further work on food security. This is the value of a food assessment – it develops a framework that decision makers and community members have agreed on together; an approach that hopefully makes it easier to deliver programming that meets community needs.