Coalition Building and Food Insecurity: How an Equity and Justice Framework Guided a Viable Food Assistance Network.Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 09 16; 19(18)IJ
Food insecurity is widespread in the United States. The COVID-19 pandemic intensified the need for food assistance and created opportunities for collaboration among historically-siloed organizations. Research has demonstrated the importance of coalition building and community organizing in Policy, Systems, and Environmental (PSE) change and its potential to address equitable access to food, ultimately improving population health outcomes. In New Haven, community partners formed a coalition to address systems-level issues in the local food assistance system through the Greater New Haven Coordinated Food Assistance Network (CFAN). Organizing the development of CFAN within the framework of Collaborating for Equity and Justice (CEJ) reveals a new way of collaborating with communities for social change with an explicit focus on equity and justice. A document review exploring the initiation and growth of the network found that 165 individuals, representing 63 organizations, participated in CFAN since its inception and collaborated on 50 actions that promote food access and overall health. Eighty-one percent of these actions advanced equitable resource distribution across the food system, with forty-five percent focused on coordinating food programs to meet the needs of underserved communities. With the goal of improving access to food while addressing overall equity within the system, the authors describe CFAN as a potential community organizing model in food assistance systems.