What is a Food System?

The term “food system” is used frequently in discussions about nutrition, food, health, economic development, food security, farming and fishing.

A food system includes all processes and infrastructure involved in feeding a population: growing or harvesting, processing, packaging, aggregation, distribution, transportation, marketing, consumption and disposal/recycling of food and food-related items.

It also includes the inputs needed and outputs generated at each of these steps.


A food system operates within and is influenced by social, political, economic and environmental contexts. It also requires human resources that provide labor, research and education.