To successfully forage in an environment filled with rewards and threats, animals need to rely on familiar structures of their environment that signal food availability. The central amygdala (CeA) is known to mediate a panoply of consummatory and defensive behaviors, yet how specific activity patterns within CeA subpopulations guide optimal choices is not completely understood. In a paradigm of appetitive conditioning in which mice freely forage for food across a continuum of cues, we found that two major subpopulations of CeA neurons, Somatostatin-positive (CeASst) and protein kinase Cδ-positive (CeAPKCδ) neurons, can assign motivational properties to environmental cues. Although the proportion of food responsive cells was higher within CeASst than CeAPKCδ neurons, only the activities of CeAPKCδ, but not CeASst, neurons were required for learning of contextual food cues. Our findings point to a model in which CeAPKCδ neurons may incorporate stimulus salience together with sensory features of the environment to encode memory of the goal location.