The food system encompasses a highly diverse range of activities and interests that are deeply connected to every community in the United States, affecting local economies, public health, and environmental sustainability. Issues ranging from hunger to armland preservation to food waste have resulted from the current food system, and myriad food movements have formed around the world to address these issues. Significant financial barriers limit the growth and evolution of work in the food system, yet this arena holds great economic and community development potential.
Considering all food-related endeavors as part of a broader 'system' is a more recent shift in thinking in the U.S. and there are still many ways the food system can be defined. In part because of this wide diversity and lack of clear definition, financing has been historically limited to many of the sectors connected to food. This paper makes the case for defining a food systems asset class that directs development finance to food-related activity, supporting the growth of a food system that is economically stimulating and provides community improvements.