The current, globalised food system supplies ‘cheap’ food to a large proportion of the world's population, but with significant social, environmental and health costs that are poorly understood. The present paper examines the nature and extent of these costs for both rural and urban communities, by illustrating the financial pressures on food producers and manufacturers to produce cheap food, the disconnection people experience with how and where their food is produced, and the rise in obesity levels that plague the globe. The paper then proposes that community food systems may play an important role in mitigating the adverse environmental, economic and social effects of the dominant food system, by the use of more sustainable food production methods, the development of local economies and enabling closer connections between farmers and consumers. There are many opportunities for public health nutritionists to contribute to the local food system literature to ascertain whether these systems improve inequities, provide better access to healthy food and help stem the tide of rising global obesity levels. Public health nutritionists can play a key role in supporting people to become food citizens and to advocate for democratic and sustainable food systems.