These definitions are helpful when discussing healthy food policies

Healthy Food

Food that is minimally processed; fresh, frozen, or canned produce that has little, if any, added sugar, salt, or fat; food that is culturally relevant; food that meets evidence-based nutrition standards; food that is both nutritious and safe to eat.


Food is accessible when it is affordable and community members can readily grow or raise it, find it, obtain it, transport it, prepare it, and eat it.

Improved Environmental Conditions

Laws that promote or support: sustainable agricultural practices; soil resilience; pollinator health; clean air (e.g., reduces carbon emissions; particulate matter); clean water (including providing water testing); biodiversity (including green spaces like gardens and parks in urban areas); edible landscapes; soil testing for community gardens; human resilience to disease; pollinator-friendly landscapes/areas; address concerns about climate change; and aim to reduce waste (e.g., in terms of food and energy).

Strong Local Economies

Laws that encourage local dollars to stay in the community (e.g., buy local); provide financial support for establishing or strengthening local businesses/trade/producers (e.g., facilitate or create access to a funding streams—grants, loans; provides a tax break or other economic incentive); support livable wage jobs within the community; support humane working conditions for food workers; create pathways for economic prosperity (e.g. training programs; new/small business support); and promotes community wealth.

Health Equity

The absence of disadvantage in chronic disease-related health outcomes regardless of one’s race or ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, gender, age, or mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; and/or geographic location.1,2

Socially Disadvantaged & Marginalized Groups

Groups of people who systematically experience unfavorable social, economic, or political conditions based on their relative position in social hierarchies. Socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups often also experience a restricted ability to participate fully in society and enjoy the benefits of progress.3

Health Inequities

Disparities in public health that can be traced to unequal systemic, economic, and social conditions.1

Health Disparities

Health differences that adversely affect socially disadvantaged groups.3

Targeted Universalism

To improve outcomes for all impacted by a social issue, first address those impacted most.4 Pursuing health equity means striving for the highest possible standard of health for all people and giving special attention to the needs of those at greatest risk of poor health, based on social conditions.5


1 Ransom, M. M., Greiner, A., Kochtitzky, C., & Major, K. S. (2011). Pursuing health equity: zoning codes and public health. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, 39(s1), 94-97.
2 Disparities. Available from: URL:
3 Braveman, P. A., Kumanyika, S., Fielding, J., LaVeist, T., Borrell, L. N., Manderscheid, R., & Troutman, A. (2011). Health disparities and health equity: the issue is justice. American Journal of Public Health, 101(S1), S149-S155.
4 Powell, j., Menendian, S., Reece, J. (2009) The Importance of Targeted Universalism. Poverty and Race, March/April issue
5 Braveman, P. (2014) What are Health Disparities and Health Equity? We Need to Be Clear. Public Health Report, 129 (S 2): 5–8.