Food System 101

The Food System

The food system is all the activities involved in the production, processing, distribution, consumption, and disposal of feeding a population. Food systems are influenced by social, economic, political, and environmental factors.

Farmers are at the beginning of the food system

They use their knowledge of how to raise crops and livestock to produce food. Production can look different depending on the scale and growing methods used. Food producers have a lot of choices to make about how they will grow food.

Food is ready for processing

Every food requires some level of processing, storage, and/or packaging. It can be as simple as rinsing off fresh vegetables or transforming wheat from a field for inclusion in packaging dry cereal. Regional facilities help make the local food system more resilient.

Food is ready for sales and marketing

Food gets to those who prepare it for consumption. There are a variety of ways to distribute food, both for a cost and for free. Supermarkets, restaurants, and cooperatives sell to the public. Farmer’s Markets, Stands, and CSAs link food producers directly to their customer.

Food is ready to eat

This is the part of the food system everyone takes part in - eating! Family traditions, cultural heritage, time, dietary needs, budget, and personal preferences guide how we cook at home, and some of these factors may evolve over time.

Waste Management & Recycling

Food waste is food not eaten. The causes of food waste occur throughout the food system. There are some common and effective ways to reduce and manage food waste: recycle by composting, turn waste food into animal feed, produce less of overproduced food, and food donations.