Introduction to Community Food System Indicators

Authors: Lauren Gwin, Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems; Mallory Rahe, Extension Community Economist; and Shannon Caplan, Rural Communities Explorer

Publish Date: Fall 2017

The Community Food System Indicators curated collection is now available in Oregon State University Extension’s Rural Communities Explorer. The CFS Indicators span the food system, from production to consumption, and data are available at the state and county level. The CFS Indicators are a partnership between the Oregon Community Food Systems Network, the Oregon State University Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems, and Rural Communities Explorer.

Why Community Food System Indicators?

Around the U.S. and in Oregon, people and organizations traditionally involved with separate elements of the food system are coming together to tackle challenges related to health, environment, and economy, as part of the “community food systems” movement.

Bringing people and organizations together to evaluate and change aspects of the food system requires developing a common understanding of issues and shared goals. The CFS Indicators, originally developed for the Oregon Community Food Systems Network and the Meyer Memorial Trust by Matthew Buck (now OCFSN Coordinator), provide an integrated dataset that supports these efforts.

What is a community food system?

The idea of a “community food system” starts with the core functions of a food system – growing, harvesting, processing, packaging, transporting, marketing, consuming, and disposal – and views them with the goal of enhancing environmental, economic, and social health.

Sustainable community food systems are grown through community-led collaboration and include:

• Small- and mid-scale, sustainable farms;

• Closer ties between farmers and consumers;

• Equitable access to an affordable, nutritious diet;

• Food & agriculture businesses that create jobs & recirculate capital;

• Fair working conditions for farm & food system labor;

• Food and agriculture policy that supports all the above.

Here in Oregon, these collaborations are active at the local, regional, and state level. The Oregon Community Food Systems Network, established in 2015, is a collaboration of more than 40 nonprofit organizations and allies – including OSU Extension – dedicated to strengthening local and regional food systems to deliver better economic, social, health, and environmental outcomes across the state. Learn more about OCFSN here:

What’s in the Community Food Systems Indicator collection?

The 53 indicators in this collection span the food system and fall into these main categories:

• Food Access and Food Insecurity

• Farm Base

• Market Linkages

See the next page for a table of Indicators related to Community Capacity, which together assess if and how counties are addressing community food systems challenges and opportunities, are being tracked separately, outside RCE.

All Indicators will be updated by RCE as new data are available. A report on the full dataset will be prepared on an annual basis by the OSU Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems, in partnership with the Oregon Community Food Systems Network.

Ready to explore the Community Food Systems Indicators?

Start here: and select “Community Food Systems” under “Featured Collections.”

This short video explains how to use this Collection:

Questions about the CFS Indicators?

Start here:

Or contact Shannon Caplan, Rural Communities Explorer Program Coordinator: or 541 737 2105.

For more information

• Oregon Community Food Systems

• OSU Center for Small Farms & Community Food Systems

The Community Food Systems Indicators curated collection was made possible with financial support from The Ford Family Foundation.

The CFS Indicators project was originally funded by the Meyer Memorial Trust