Mapping Food Ladders

One of the questions that I frequently get from local food networks and local authorities is “how do we map what already exists in our community?”  Organisations also ask how what they do maps onto the food ladders approach.  These are questions that I have been exploring recently, as in theory it seems straight forward, but in practice it can be much more difficult.  To this end I have developed a workshop on how to map food activity in communities onto the Food Ladders framework. It takes a blended learning approach, starting with self-directed online learning, followed by a group activity that involves discussing and agreeing how activity maps onto the ladders within individual organisations. There is also a form tool that can be adapted for collecting the relevant data needed for this mapping. While the examples in this workshop are third sector organisations, any form of activity can be mapped onto the ladders.

Food Ladders: Building socially just community resilience to food insecurity

If we are going to have healthy people, we need food in communities that is healthy and accessible to them. We need to build food ladders that help people engage and have good relationships with food.

Aims of the Food Ladders approach

  1. Meet need now, because people are hungry right now.
  2. Build long term resilience and reduce vulnerability to food insecurity by repairing the effects of poverty and increasing equitable participation.

You may find the video explainer on food insecurity and its effects useful to watch in order to understand what food insecurity is and how it has been studied and understood. (see video below).

Outline of the workshop

The aims of this workshop are to (1) introduce participants to the food ladders; (2) help them understand how organisational activity maps onto the Food Ladders; and (3) help build consistency in the scoring of activity across a group of individuals who will be undertaking the mapping within a particular location.

(1) Ask participants to work through the getting straight to it part of this post in advance of an online group session. It is not necessary to work through the background information in advance, I have just included it to help support the learning and for those who may be a little unsure. Ask participants to bring a copy of their responses to the workshop (these should be emailed to them directly upon completion of the google form.

(2) Hold an online session where you discuss how individuals mapped the case studies onto the form. This would be good to do in smaller groups, perhaps assigning each group a separate case study organisation to read in advance, but this is not necessary.

In groups, workshop participants should indicate how they filled in the form and explain why they think the particular activity they chose should be mapped onto the matrix in the way that they have, with the rest of the group providing agreement or offering an alternative perspective. It will be useful for the workshop leader or moderator to drop into the different groups to check understanding.

Once all participants have had a chance to discuss their organisation and activity and how they mapped the activity onto the three domains, they should summarise the material and report back to the larger group. If there is time, this can be followed up by a voting activity or further discussion if different groups do not agree on the scoring.


Outline of the remaining material. This can be accessed by clicking the page numbers at the bottom.

Page 2: Getting straight to it–How to map food ladders

  1. Video explainer of what food ladders
  2. General Instructions on how to map activity with a worked example
  3. Activity: Case study organisations to try it yourself
  4. Google form for answers that will inform the group discussion

Page 3:  Background that may support your understanding

  1. Conceptual information
    1. What is food insecurity–40 minute film explaining how food insecurity has been studied and how this approach to understanding food insecurity is different
    2. Resilience explainer
    3. Film–More than just food that shows the effects of community action for building resilience in communities.
    4. Academic paper that accompanies the film that provides the background theory and discussion.
  2. Methodological information and approach
    1. Systems Thinking
    2. Social Practice Theory
    3. Co-production