Turning great ideas into healthier communities

Issue Areas

Food Security

Obesity and diet-related chronic diseases have become severe economic and health threats to both adults and childrenincreasing the costs of health care, and impacting quality of life for families and communities. To reverse these negative trends, it is critical that communities change eating habits, adopt healthy behaviors, and address the influence of the environment on obesity rates. However, access to healthy foods still remains a barrier in adopting healthier lifestyles, especially for low-income populations in the United States and overseas.

The Public Health Institute is committed to addressing food security in a holistic manner, drawing on years of expertise in policy, systems, and environmental change. We support a shift in the way the food system currently operates—from increasing access to environments with healthy food and beverage options, to creating sustainable food production systems that are good for people, planet, and profit

Our expertise includes:

  • Policy and advocacy: PHI experts have developed, advocated for, and implemented successful regional and national food policy campaigns that to promote healthy communities. We have specific expertise in advancing school-based efforts, protecting the rights of farm workers, and limiting advertising of unhealthy food options to children.  We also track major policy debates—including the Farm Bill and other federal nutrition policies—and have formed national networks of food policy councils that work to incorporate a public health perspective into critical policy issues. 
  • Coalition and network building: Work with us to build broad coalitions of diverse partners in your efforts to address food insecurities.
  • Community engagement: Successful food security strategies start with the input of the community. PHI can help you partner with local allies on the ground, and encourage resident voices in identifying solutions. 
  • Research and evaluation:  PHI experts study the impact of food insecurity on our health, demonstrating the impact of our dysfunctional food systems. We also provide program and policy evaluation, and offer ongoing and as-needed evaluation services. 
  • Trusted advisors: PHI is a trusted advisor to university research and education programs, allied nonprofits, media outlets, and policymakers. We are available to provide training, consultation, and technical assistance in your food security efforts. 


Resources and Tools

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Michael Dimock

Michael R. Dimock, president of Roots of Change Fund (ROC), is a national food movement organizer and thought leader on food and farming systems ne...

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Genoveva Islas

Genoveva Islas, MPH, directs Cultiva La Salud, which works to address poor nutrition and physical inactivity in the San Joaquin Valley by creating ...

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Center for Wellness and Nutrition

The Public Health Institute Center for Wellness and Nutrition recognizes the connections among local community environments, poor diet, physic...

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Cultiva La Salud

As an initiative of the Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH), Cultiva La Salud works in Fresno, Kern and Stanislaus counti...

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Network for a Healthy California, Supplemental Nutrition Education Program Education
(PHI program 1997-2015)

PHI partnered with the California Department of Public Health to implement the Network for a Healthy California (Network), the largest and most div...

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Public Health Alliance of Southern California

The Public Health Alliance of Southern California (Alliance) is a coalition of the executive leadership in local health departments in Southern Cal...

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Roots of Change

Roots of Change (ROC) is a think tank-and-do tank working to ensure emergence of a sustainable food system in California. ROC provides road maps to...

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Here's How We're Making a Difference

Helping Hospitals Tackle Hunger

Community health needs assessments (CHNAs) are conducted every three years by nonprofit hospitals. The CHNA presents an opportunity to identify and address a broad spectrum of factors that impact health and well being in local communities. Our guidance helps hospitals assess one these factors: the community food environment.

With examples from food policy councils, food banks and health departments, the Making Food Systems Part of Your Community Health Needs Assessment guide points to existing sources of data and case studies of collaborations between hospitals and food system stakeholders.

The guide is designed to support a local dialogue that encourages stakeholders to share experiences and identify existing tools, data, and resources. This process will create synergistic linkages and an ethic of shared ownership of the community’s health and well-being.

Read the guide.

PHI's Roots of Change Launches California Market Match Consortium

PHI's Roots of Change (ROC) conceived the California Market Match Consortium (CMMC) to increase access to fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables for underserved communities that suffer disproportionately from nutrition-related diseases using food assistance programs. 

In 2009, the California Department of Food and Agriculture awarded ROC $500,000 to launch the CMMC. In the four years of the pilot phase, the consortium catalyzed 150 farmers markets in 16 counties to increase the consumption of fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables by 37,000 low-income families, while building sales for nearly 900 fruit, nut and vegetables farmers. The program now lives on through ROC partner, the Ecology Center.

Protecting SNAP-Ed During Federal Farm Bill Negotiations

Photo by Tim Wagner/HEACDuring the last round of federal Farm Bill negotiations critical funding for SNAP-Ed, the health education component of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), was on the verge of getting cut. PHI's advocacy team helped lead a national effort that protected SNAP-Ed programs not only in California, but across the U.S. Today, these programs continue to provide vital nutrition education to support low-income families in living healthy lifestyles.