Food Systems

The food system is ‘the interconnected system of everything and everybody that influences, and is influenced by, the activities involved in bringing food from farm to fork and beyond’ (Parsons, Hawkes and Wells 2019). Colleagues and I created this visual thinking tool of the food system to help support more holistic approaches to food, in particular in policymaking. Taking a systems approach means looking at connections between the different parts of a system, understanding where activities in one part of the system impact on another and where feedback within the system is broken.


The tool places the chain that brings food from farm to fork at its core, but also shows the interactions between the chain and the interconnected economic, political, environmental, health and social dimensions of the system. When specific food policy solutions are implemented, the interconnections in the system mean all dimensions are affected, directly and indirectly, intentionally and unintentionally. 


This Brief explains the tool, and looks in more detail at what the food system is, how it is defined and the implications of that definition for food policymaking.

The Food System_Parsons Hawkes and Wells