Food Systems

A food system is the complex network of activities involved in feeding a population. Creating a just, equitable food system rooted in community is at the heart of what we do at United way of Greater Knoxville.

At the United Way of Greater Knoxville, we recognize that food insecurity doesn’t exist in a vacuum and that often those experiencing food insecurity also face issues around housing, childcare, healthcare, transportation, and mental health. Rather than addressing hunger alone, we will focus on community food systems which shifts the burden of negative health outcomes away from the individual and considers the environment and conditions in which an individual is born, lives, works, and plays.

According to Feeding America, in 2019 12.3% (or 56,560) community members were food insecure in Knox County, and our annual food budget shortfall was $32,395,000.

Unfortunately, food insecurity is not spread equally among populations.

Households with children experience food insecurity at more than double the Knox County average, and Black and Hispanic households with children experience food insecurity at even higher rates than white households.

College-aged students are also disproportionately affected by food insecurity, and studies show students struggling with food insecurity are often forced to neglect academic work in order to obtain more stable access to food.

Our Initiative

Our Food Systems initiative will work alongside food system stakeholders, community residents, policy makers, non-profit leaders, and community-based organizations, to create a more just, equitable local food system. We recognize how historical and systemic inequities have impacted and continue to influence the food system challenges we have today, so we will create an environment that empowers community residents as co-creators in our countywide vision to foster transformational change.

In our first step to better understand the unique challenges of food insecurity and access to the food system in Knox County communities, we are conducting a Community Food Insecurity Assessment in partnership with the Knox County Health Department, the Community Food Security Advisory Committee, and Three3 to better understand our community assets, needs, and barriers through data collection, Participatory Action Research, and the convening of diverse voices in our community.

The results of the assessment will be used to drive a subsequent Community Food Plan rooted in community- identified outcomes and strategies.

Contact Us

Want to learn more about community food systems?

Reach out to get more information about how we’re working collectively to tackle food system issues in our region.