This glossary includes definitions adapted from the work of the Alliance for Dignified Food Support, who will shortly be launching a website with guidance for community food projects and charitable food aid providers to ensure the support they provide is dignified.


Affordable Food Schemes: Projects which offer [good quality], low-cost food, which is often subsidised. These projects are typically positioned in low-income neighbourhoods, where access to fresh local food is limited. Affordable Food Schemes can include community supermarkets and pantries, as well as affordable veg boxes and low-cost community cafes.

Cash First: A cash first approach broadly refers to the idea of giving people cash payments (or sometimes vouchers), rather than food. Local authorities can deliver cash first schemes that provide support directly to recipients via a cash payment, in addition to their usual benefits, rather than by subsidising foodbanks and other emergency food providers.

Charitable food aid: Food projects which offer free or low-cost, subsidised food to people experiencing food insecurity, e.g. food pantries and social supermarkets. They may be more broadly open to the community, e.g. community meals, and have wider goals such as tackling social isolation.
Community Food Support: Any food provision delivered by voluntary, charitable or community groups that exists outside of the traditional marketplace.

Community Fridge: A space where everyone can share surplus food, including donations from local food businesses, producers and households (Hubbub). They are located within a particular town or area and anyone in the community can take food from them for free and put food in to share. Hubbub coordinates the UK Community Fridge Network, which includes over 200 Community Fridges.

Community food enterprise: A community-based project with a focus on improving some aspect/s of food locally for the community, which includes a trading element. A cross-over between a social enterprise and a community food project.

Community food project: A community-based project with a focus on improving some aspect/s of food locally for the community. These include charitable food aid, as well as other projects such as community food growing, cooking classes or other training, community meals etc.

Community supermarket/social supermarket/ food pantry: Membership schemes which offer low cost food to people, either for a small subscription fee or on a pay-as-you-feel basis. There are typically fewer eligibility criteria to join a community supermarket or pantry and members can often self-refer.

Emergency food aid: Food projects which offer free food and other essentials to people experiencing financial crisis. They are designed to prevent hunger in an emergency rather than be relied on for long-term support, and usually provide a parcel of food to last for a few days.

Food desert: An area where there is limited available to buy or access food, particularly fresh, healthy, and affordable produce. They typically occur in more deprived areas, and mean people may have to travel to get food, spend more money to buy food locally, or rely on less healthy products.

Food bank: One type of community food support. Food banks typically provide food for free or for a nominal charge, and there are usually certain criteria in place which determine access, typically proof of low income or a referral from a support agency. In the UK there are over 2000 food banks – 1200 are part of the Trussell Trust network and the remainder are independent.

Food hub: Food hubs are essentially storage spaces which function as mid-points between producers and consumers of food, aiding with logistics of distributing the food. See Food Research Collaboration’s policy paper on food hubs for more information. In this toolkit, we are generally referring to food hubs which are being used by multiple community food projects and/or charitable food aid providers to help them to regulate their food supply. Food may arrive at the hub from multiple suppliers including surplus food, purchased food and donations.

Food insecurity: When a person or household does not have access to sufficient food, or food of an adequate quality, to meet their nutritional and cultural requirements in a dignified way. This is often due to not being able to afford enough food but can also be linked to other barriers to access, such as mobility issues, or a lack of food being available locally.

Food security: Occurs when all people are able to access enough safe and nutritious food to meet their requirements for a healthy life, in ways that the planet can sustain into the future. Emergency food providers and affordable food schemes all seek to improve food security in their local community. Food security can also be improved through local infrastructure, access to welfare payments and cash first schemes.

Food partnership/s: Food partnerships bring together key local actors, including local authority, voluntary and community sector, businesses, public bodies and academics from across the food system within their area, to develop and deliver a shared vision for a more sustainable food future. Nearly 100 food partnerships have joined the Sustainable Food Places network.

Food poverty: A symptom of wider poverty, meaning a person or household is not able to afford the food they need and want due to experiencing poverty. This may mean not being able to eat enough food, reducing the quality of food, and not being able to meet cultural or nutritional requirements.  

Food waste: Food not ultimately consumed by humans that is discarded or recycled. There are several types of food waste: at the postharvest i.e. farm level, during manufacturing, during retail and distribution services, and at the household level. It is estimated that around one third of all food produced globally goes to waste.

Healthy Start: Healthy Start is a food welfare scheme in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (if you are based in Scotland see Best Start). Healthy Start provides payment to eligible households during pregnancy and for children aged 1-4 years old with one £4.25 voucher per week to purchase fresh, frozen or tinned fruit and vegetables, pulses and grains, cow’s milk or infant formula. Children under one year old can get two £4.25 (£8.50) per week. Retailers selling these products can accept Healthy Start as payment as long as they accept Mastercard.

Pay-As-You-Feel: A concept which encourages people to think about what that plate of food means to them, and value it in whatever way they can. By choosing not to segregate people based on financial circumstances projects are funded in a way that does not patronise those who need it and those who want to support it. Those in need are not degraded or shamed for taking a free or cheap meal, likewise those who can afford it are not pestered into more and more donations. Everyone is equal in getting fed, it is up to the individual to pay what they feel (The Real Junk Food Project).

Social enterprise: A business which trades but is driven by social and or environmental purposes.

Social investor/investment: Investing money with the expectation of a positive social impact or positive impact on the community. This may be a loan to be repaid in full, a ‘blended finance’ offer which is part grant and part loan, or not require any repayment, on the understanding that the investment will have social benefits. This includes organisations whose primary aim is investing, as well as local authorities and housing associations/social landlords which may invest money and/or other resources such as access to premises, equipment, staff time, renovation of space or access to business support, on the expectation that the investment will benefit residents.

Surplus Food: Surplus occurs when the supply of food exceeds the demand for it. There are many ways and reasons this can happen, and it can happen at every stage from farm to fridge to fork involving farmers, manufacturers, retail outlets, hospitality providers and individual households. Charities such as FareShare, the Felix Project and City Harvest work to redistribute this surplus food to community food projects that can provide it to people in their community that need it. Despite the increase in the amount of food redistributed by charities and other types of projects over the last few years, food waste remains a significant environmental issue.

Sustainable: A project is sustainable if it is able to continue operating over a period of time. Sustainability can refer to funding – projects are more likely to be sustainable if they are not solely reliant on donations or volunteers, as well as the environment – food production is only sustainable if it doesn’t negatively impact the environment on a long-term basis.

Wraparound support: advice and support services which seek to address the root causes of why a person or household is experiencing food insecurity and address complex needs. These may be present on site within a food project or referred to by a food project. These cover areas such as financial and debt advice, benefit advice, education, skills and employability, wellbeing support, legal and immigration advice, and housing support.

Good Food Enterprise: Working to provide food that is good for people and the planet, and support local production playing a part in community beyond trading.

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