Food systems planning is an opportunity for planners to improve community health, create economic opportunities, support improved environmental conditions, and address equity issues. Many food systems issues can be brought up during the planning process, and areas of opportunity that tools discussed in this resource may address. Making the connection between planning tools and food systems requires stronger communication and collaboration between planners, citizens, and policymakers. There are many organizations and communities that have developed resources on how to engage in this dialogue, implement policies, and evaluate success. In Maryland, Baltimore’s Sustainability Plan, for example, which contains a section dedicated to food systems, also includes a thorough Equitable Development chapter that applies an equity lens (one that “‘leads’ with a racial equity analysis to ensure that the impacts of institutional racism are considered”) to their work.59 ChangeLab Solutions’ The Planner’s Playbook makes the distinction between developing and implementing plans, and is geared toward ensuring that planners and policymakers are addressing equity throughout the process.60

Food systems planning is still fairly new and has seen several innovative approaches recently. Healthy corner stores, the leasing of public lands to farmers, and the acceptance of SNAP and WIC benefits at farmers markets are all examples of programs and strategies that have gained popularity in local communities in just the past decade.61 These programs fuse the “why” of planning with the “how” of policymaking, and even more programs will emerge as planners think about how to apply these tools in their communities and how to develop new strategies that fit their communities’ needs. For example, will Fresh MARTA spark more ideas from transit planners on how to co-locate fresh food retail with public transit? Will the St. Louis Food Hub get planners to think about other ways they can leverage local TIF provisions to improve food security? As successful urban agriculture initiatives improve food security, will the ordinances that formalize them start to think about local government more broadly as encompassing special districts such as school districts? Central to all these questions is: how do local policies support these ideas, and how can planners take a role in supporting policy change to improve local food systems?


59Baltimore, Md., Off. Sust., Sustainability Plan, Ch. 6: Equitable Implementation (2019),
60Changelab Solutions, The Planner’s Playbook (2020),
61Julia Freedgood and Jessica Fydenkevez, Growing Local: A Community Guide to Planning for Agriculture and Food Systems (2017),

Help us improve this site!

Help us improve this website by taking a quick two-minute survey.