A good practice guide for community food initiatives

Date: August, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9560502-1-2


Healthy Food for All published this guide in 2009 to help communities set up and sustain Community Food Initiatives. 


report coverFood and nutrition are key determinants of health. What people eat, and how much they eat, influences how healthy they are, and even how long they live. Food poverty arises when people lack the money or other resources needed to eat a healthy diet. The overarching objective of Healthy Food for All is to end food poverty on the island of Ireland.

In essence, Community Food Initiatives promote good health by making it easier for people to make healthy food choices.

How can Community Food Initiatives address these issues?

People who are living on low incomes encounter a number of significant barriers to eating healthily, as outlined above. The barriers relate principally to accessibility, availability and affordability of healthy food. These barriers can be overcome, at least to some extent, by Community Food Initiatives, as described in this Guide.

Community Food Initiatives address food poverty in a number of ways, including:

  • a healthy diet for everyone graphicImproving access to good-quality, affordable food 
  • Addressing gaps in dietary knowledge and skills 
  • Supporting bottom-up approaches to food provision and consumption 
  • Improving the quality and extent of food distribution and provision 
  • Facilitating social participation in the food economy 
  • Empowering local communities to address local food needs.

This Guide describes a number of different types of local Community Food Initiatives. Each of them illustrates the importance of local action in identifying and tackling local issues in relation to food accessibility, affordability and availability. The Guide also has an all-island focus that supports shared learning across the island of Ireland.

Who should read this Guide? 

The purpose of this Guide is to help communities set up and sustain Community Food Initiatives, so that they have better access to safe, sustainable, nutritious food, with positive impact on the well-being of people in their local area. The Guide has been developed for use within the community, with the following audiences in mind:

  • Community/development workers 
  • Youth workers 
  • Community dietitians 
  • Health professionals 
  • Local authorities 
  • The general public.

How is the Guide organised?

The Guide is divided into two main parts:

Part A

This section gives general guidance on how to set up and run a food initiative in the community. It provides advice on how to carry out a needs assessment, write aims and objectives, conduct financial planning, establish organisational and management structures, obtain funding, deal with staffing, and evaluate the success of a Community Food Initiative. It also provides guidance on how to develop a healthy food policy for the local community. It encourages communities to take a broad approach to food issues and where possible to strategically link nutrition programmes, so that methods and messages from different initiatives are consistent and mutually reinforcing.

Part B

This section gives practical information on setting up specific types of Community Food Initiatives including Community Caf├ęs, Community Food Co-ops, Community Farmers’ Markets, Community Growing and Cooking Projects, Community-run Breakfast and Afterschool clubs, and nutrition education and training programmes.

More Information

Healthy Food for All provides online resources to support this Guide on thier website, including additional information such as links to reports, contact details and extra case studies. They have also created an All-Island CFI Directory, which charts Community Food Initiatives across the island, and are running an all-island Demonstration Programme for Community Food Initiatives (funded by safefood). See section B.7 for further information.