Faces of Food Systems Planning

Increasingly, when people talk about food they are talking about politics.

From the environmental costs of shipping food to tackling the problem of food deserts, people are reflecting on the environmental and financial costs of their food. Not only is food distribution an issue, there is a national concern for the health of citizens as exemplified by the partnership between Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and APA with Plan4Health — a  project designed to leverage planners’ roles as collaborators and conveners to improve health outcomes through forming local coalitions that build local capacity to address population health goals and promote the inclusion of health in non-traditional sectors.

Not only is it a matter of environmental and financial cost, but food impacts the health of all citizens.  Plan4Health, an initiative of APA’s Planning and Community Health Center, leverages the expertise of planners and public health professionals to increase access to nutritious food, making the healthy choice easier where we live, learn, work, and play. 

Plan4Health coalitions are strengthening local food systems by increasing healthy options in corner stores, expanding community gardens, or offering mobile farmers’ markets in vulnerable neighborhoods.

APA is also a key partner in Growing Food Connections (GFC), a $3.96 million initiative funding through a grant from the USDA/NIFA AFRI Food Systems Program. This effort aims to build local government capacity to enhance food security for all.

There is a clarion call for food systems that promote health, are economically viable, equitable and financially sound. Enter APA’s Food Systems Planning Interest Group (FIG).

Food Planner Profiles

Inspired by a keynote from the late Jerome Kaufman, FAICP, former professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a group of APA members formed FIG to support the advancement of food systems planning by providing networking, resource sharing, education, and professional development opportunities to planners and allied professionals at the local, regional, state, or national level.

Their goal is to strengthen the profession of food systems planning so that food systems planning is recognized as a core area of community and regional planning practice that is equal to and integrated with land use, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, housing and other areas of mainstream planning practice.

Another goal is to have food systems planning recognized as a core area of urban and regional planning practice by local, regional, and state/provincial governments, and the various organizations that represent or work for/with them.

The mission of FIG is to help build stronger, more sustainable, just, equitable, self-reliant, and resilient community and regional food systems that, through planning practice, are integrated with other community systems, for present and future generations.

As a part of an ongoing communications effort, the APA-FIG Leadership Committee interviewed several practicing planners engaged in some aspect of food planning or policy. The resulting efforts highlight how planners in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors are actively working

on food production, processing, distribution, access, consumption, and/or waste issues as part of their day-to-day jobs.

“Food systems planning is an exciting, dynamic profession. A lot of practicing planners don’t think about food as an area of planning practice. We wanted to showcase how planners are integrating it into their day-to-day work. Faces of Food Systems Planning highlights the innovative work of 22 people from across North America,” said Kimberley Hodgson, AICP, chair of APA-FIG and founder of Cultivating Healthy Places.  

The interviewers asked about on-the-job opportunities and challenges; how food systems planning and policy fit into their work load; who had the most influence on their planning and food systems planning work; advice they would give to planners wishing to engage in food systems planning work.

Visit APA’s Planner Profile page and browse through the many career profiles in the Faces of Food Systems Planning.

About the Author

Bobbie Albrecht is APA's career services manager.

Top image: Detail from farmers' market sketch by Flickr user Greg Wagoner (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

August 2, 2016

By Bobbie Albrecht