1980s when, in response to cutbacks in the Food Stamp Program, congressional legislation authorized the distribution of federally owned surplus food to soup kitchens and other groups that provided free food to needy people.2 A community food security movement has been in existence since the early 1990s and got a big jumpstart forward in 1996 with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Community Food Projects Competitive Grants Programs.3 Many nonprofit organizations around the country have received these small grants to either start or move forward their community-based projects, and many of the projects Alaimo discussed were funded by that program.
Alaimo noted the issue of defining a “community” response versus a federal response. In fact, she indicated, there is a lot of blending, so that one cannot easily separate the two. Food assistance programs are happening at the community level, and some of them are also funded federally. For the purposes of her presentation, she defined “community responses” as “those that have been initiated at a local level and are at least partially funded by non-federal/non-state sources” (Alaimo, 2013:3).
According to Alaimo, household food security and community food security have different definitions, but overlapping goals. Household food security means that all household members have access at all times to enough food to support an active, healthy life. She noted that community food security has been defined as “a situation in which all community residents have access to a safe, culturally acceptable, and nutritionally adequate diet through a sustainable food system that maximizes community self-reliance and social justice” (Hamm and Bellows, 2003).
Alaimo commented that community food security advocates see food as an individual and a community right rather than as a commodity or an entitlement. A rights-based approach is different from a needs-based approach. Several people mentioned this difference throughout the workshop, and Alaimo said it is important to bring the difference to the forefront. A needs-based approach focuses on food and providing food to people who need it. In contrast, a rights-based approach, which she said was recently articulated very well in the literature by Chilton and Rose (2009) and Anderson (2013), focuses on creating enabling environments that support people in providing food for themselves with a structure for legal recourse. In other words, a rights-based approach necessitates facilitating social and economic structures that enable people to acquire
2For example, the Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) was authorized by Congress in 1981 to fund states to store and distribute surplus food commodities to those in need; TEFAP enabled food banks to become a central part of food assistance throughout the United States (see http://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/programs/tefap/ [August 12, 2013]).
3See http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/communityfoodprojects.cfm [August 13, 2013].