Step 3 - Analyzing Food Security

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To understand food security in your community, you need to identify and consider some of the barriers and issues that are challenging your local food system and limiting the ability of residents to be food secure. Through analysis, the needs of your community must be clearly assessed before you can decide how to improve the situation and take action

The Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses Worksheet introduced in this step can be used to summarize your findings on what food resources are available in your community, gather feedback from community members, service providers, and food outlets, and to guide you in identifying issues and barriers in your local food system. This worksheet can be used as is, or can be modified to suit your needs.



Barriers to the Six A's 

The Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses Worksheet uses the Six A’s of food security as a framework and asks you if any or all of the Six A’s of Food Security are being met for members in your community. It includes a range of exercises and questionnaires.

Here are some common barriers to the six A's:

Availability and Accessibility

Food and Food Services/Programs are not present - lack of food outlets and services within a reasonable travel distance. Impacts on food access and the ability to make healthy food choices. Emergency food services or food delivery services are not present in vulnerable communities. 


Food and food services are too expensive - high food costs can limit the amount of food and the ability to choose healthier food for residents. 

  • residents living at or below the poverty line
  • reliance on imported foods
  • expensive food delivery programs
  • too little competition

Adequacy and Appropriateness

Not-for-profit food sources do not carry sufficient food or they may have limited access to healthier food, or options for culturally appropriate or restrictive diets may not be available. 

  • food donations are not enough 
  • donations may no cover cultural or health restrictive food
  • outlets may be present but do not focus on healthier options
  • reliance on imported food
  • school meal programs may not serve enough or healthier food options
  • poor selection of food outlets
  • food outlets don't understand demand


Food education is lacking in the community. Food literacy is low, there is a lack of cooking skills and/or inadequate cooking material/tools. 

  • food education is lacking in schools and the wider community
  • lack of healthy or nutritious food literacy
  • community members do not  have cooking skills
  • lack of proper food preparation equipment


Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses Worksheet

This worksheet will help you summarize your findings from the community food mapping exercise and the community food and food outlet questionnaires. Questions about the food resources in your community will help you identify some key issues and challenges in your food system. 


Identification of Zoning and Policy Barriers 

Your local zoning regulations may be creating a barrier to accessing food in your community. Refer to Chapter 5 for more resources on Zoning. Planning policy regulates activity and development of the built environment; this regulation of the use and design of the built environment can create significant barriers to accessing necessary food services and products. As these policy documents can be very technical, it is recommended that you work with your local planner to identify what is permitted or restricted in your community. The following steps can get this process started: 

Step 1: Identify the Planning Strategy and Land Use Bylaw(s) that apply to your community with your local planner, using the community boundaries. 

Step 2: Obtain maps from your local planner showing the applicable planning designations and land use zones for your community.

Step 3: Review planning Strategy (ies) with your local planner looking for language that enables or constrains. Scan for policies relating to food, agriculture , retail/commercial activities, and industrial. Make note on your maps of the designations that these activities are permitted in.

Step 4: Review together with your local planner the general provisions of the Land Use Bylaw(s) for restrictions that may enable or constrain your local food system. Search the individual zones for where food uses, agricultural activities , retail/commercial activities, and industrial uses are permitted. Make note of where these zones are located and roughly what activities they permit.

Step 5: Analyze these policies to identify planning and zoning opportunities and barriers.

Step 6: Review your findings with your local planner and ask if there are any other planning or policy considerations which could be creating invisible barriers.

Step 7: Summarize your findings in the Analyzing Strengths and Weaknesses Worksheet.