Measuring Racial Equity in the Food System: Established and Suggested Metrics


May 6, 2019 - Sarah Rodman-Alvarez, Kathryn Colasanti

This tool offers an expansive list of metrics that U.S. food system practitioners and food movement organizations can use to hold ourselves accountable for progress towards a more equitable food system.

The metrics are either currently in use or are recommended by food system practitioners and food movement organizations in the United States.

They are described, cited, and organized by themes: food access, food and farm business, food chain labor, and food movement.


The U.S. food system has created and been shaped by racial injustices since its inception. The ways in which racial injustice is made manifest through our food system are sometimes quite clear and other times murky at best. Data is a powerful tool that can either illuminate or obstruct the reality of injustice. Disaggregating data by race can shed light on systemic oppression.

This report identifies metrics related to racial equity in the food system that are either in use by organizations currently or have been recommended, whether in a publication or through an interview. By documenting the current landscape in this area, this report provides a foundation for the Michigan Good Food Charter Shared Measurement Advisory Committee to consider and select a set of metrics that can be used at state (Michigan) and local levels to track progress towards an equitable food system. The metrics in this report can also provide a foundation for other interested organizations to track progress.

To identify metrics presented in this spreadsheet, over 100 sources were scanned from reports and peer-reviewed literature touching on race or ethnicity and the food system. Duplicate metrics found in multiple sources were included only once. Personal communication (either interviews or emails) with about a dozen food system experts added several additional suggested metrics and insight on the structure of the list.

Notes of Caution

Racism is real but race is a social construct. 

There are no inherent or biological differences between races. Race is a social construct—it has changed over time and will continue to change. Because our society treats people of different races differently, lots of outcomes vary by race. When we see differences between races, we are seeing the result of current and historical injustices.

People are more than their race.

While metrics broken down by race can provide a picture of inequities in the food system, categories of race obscure differences within races. These metrics should not be used to treat entire races of people homogenously. All of the metrics presented here should be considered in conjunction with intersectional analyses of inequities based also on factors such as immigration status, primary language, class, culture, and gender.

Isolated data points are not the whole story.

Metrics data should be situated within people’s actual lived experiences through qualitative data or other modes that show the ways in which the issue is experienced in people’s lives.

Research can be a distraction.

The extent and impact of racism is well-documented; it does not need to be proven further. Gathering data on these or other metrics should be used to inform action or hold ourselves accountable for action, but not as a stalling tactic for taking action.

Download the file to view the metrics.


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