What is a Community Food System?


Minnie Kadake with wild-gathered beach asparagus.

A community food system includes everything that it takes to feed a community of people. Community food system sustainability is directly influenced by the economic, social and environmental costs associated with putting food on our tables and taking care of the wastes produced. An unsustainable food system is one that relies heavily on fossils fuels and low quality jobs for production and transport and results in poor nutrition at the table. A sustainable food system is run by renewable energy systems and an appropriately compensated labor force, and results in excellent nutrition at the table.

As a general rule of thumb, the more localized your food system is, the more sustainable it is – especially if you live within a productive and resilient ecosystem like we do in southeast Alaska. Southeast Alaskans have one of the more localized food systems that exists in the modern world, primarily because of our enthusiasm for wild-caught foods like salmon, deer, moose and berries. Still, the vast majority of our region’s citizens are highly dependent on foods that are imported from outside the region through the use of expensive fossils fuels. This results in foods that are increasingly expensive, less tasty, less nutritious and overall provide lower and lower community food security. Our dependence on non-local food sources runs contrary to our region’s pride in self-reliance and puts us all at risk to the unpredictability of globalized food markets.

There is ample opportunity to improve our region’s food system, decrease our dependence on outside sources, spark food-based business start-ups and improve household health with great benefit to our communities and environment. The Sustainable Southeast Partnership is working with rural communities in southeast Alaska on increasing access to, and production of healthy local foods for community food security, human health and economic development, including:

  • Wild Food Gathering
  • Community Gardens
  • Agricultural Production
  • Maricultural Production