There is an increasing recognition of the contribution of forests to food security of poor and marginalized people. However, empirical findings remain limited on how forests contribute to food security. Drawing on four case studies of community forestry in Nepal, this paper discusses pathways through which forests are contributing to food security needs of local communities. The evidence presented here was gathered through 4 years of action research and draws insights from the past 40 years of Nepal’s community forestry practice, which is often regarded as a successful case of conservation and development. It is shown that there are four distinct pathways through which community forests contribute to food security as a source of: (1) income and employment; (2) inputs to increase food production; (3) directly for food; and (4) renewable energy for cooking. Despite emerging pathways linking forest management to food systems at the local level, forestry policies and institutions have neither explicitly recognized nor strengthened the linkage between forest and food security. The paper highlights that there is a need for a fundamental shift in thinking from the conventional notion of ‘forests for soil conservation’ to ‘sustainable forest management for food security’.