Food Policy 101: Part 1

Food policies are the regulations that determine our food system. Examples include regulations for food production, price, variety, transport, distribution, access, quality, food safety, and who grows our food. It’s true that food policy (FP) is complex  – there is no umbrella FP for every community every where.

A Brief Overview

Food policy is the foundation for our modern food systems worldwide. In today’s world, many people rely on the global food system. This system allows us to eat what we want when we want.

We’re free from the seaonalit of food – we can have pineapples from Hawaii, cherries from northern Africa, or apples from Washington State year round.

It you think about it, our global food system makes our lives easier. It evolved from human demands for more efficiency – again, to eat what we want when we want.

Our demands rely on a food system with a long food supply chain (from production to our table), fast growing practices (high production to meet the demand), and food monopolies (big agriculture is driving out small family farms).

Pros and Cons

Our global food system is a complex of activities that monitor food distribution
worldwide. Some of its rewards include access to most food we want from a quick trip to the grocery store or fast food restaurants.

The risks include limited access to food if the global infrastructure breaks down. Risks can be a transportation strike, natural or human disasters, a long-term diet of processed foods or food-borne diseases.

We have seen this happen when Hurricane Maria devastated Turks and Caicos, the southeastern Bahamas and Puerto Rico. People had little food and continue to recover from this natural disaster.


Source: USDA photo

Types of Food Systems

There are a range of food systems, which are a collection of food-related activities. Food systems are a reflection of food policy and how they are implemented in reality.

Here’s a quick look at different food system groups:

Main groups

  • Global food systems: Today’s major source of food
  • National food systems: Food policies for a country or state
  • Regional food systems: Food policies for states in one geographic area
  • State food systems: Individual state food policies
  • City food systems:  Food policies for individual cities and surrounding urban areas
  • Rural food systems: Food policies for rural communities and surrounding areas
  • Local food systems: Food policies for individual neighborhoods and communities


  • Global subgroups: Includes individual countries or regions
  • National subgroups: Individual states and regions
  • Regional subgroups: Different regions (Southeast, Northeast, Northwest, Southwest)
  • Urban subgroups: Food policies for urban areas, neighborhoods, and boroughs
  • Rural subgroups: A collection of rural areas and regions
  • Local subgroups: Food policies defined by geography, distance, or communities
  • Other subgroups: Identified by culture, traditions, or native country

Intangible food systems

Other important types are the intangible food systems. These include qualities such as:

  • Social value food systems (gender equity, social justice, economics, food security)
  • Growing practices of food systems (organic, conventional, GMO foods)
  • Economic food systems (funding for farmers, distribution, access to other resources)

You can already see areas where these food systems overlap, connection, conflict, and share similar problems.

Looking Ahead

I look forward to sharing my ideas and your feedback on solutions to our complex food policies.  It’s easy to find problems in anything.

But this blog is about looking at solutions big and small. I hope you’ll join me in looking for solutions that will help our world today and tomorrow.


Dr. Bessie

If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
~~~ Mother Teresa ~~~

Author: Dr. Bessie DiDomenica

Food Policy Researcher • Resilient Agriculture Advocate • Public Speaker • Public Policy Wonk • Writer • Teacher • Social Entrepreneur • Associate Editor

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