Food Systems and the Planning Process
While this resource discusses specific tools and techniques that are generally familiar to many planners, it is important to start by recognizing the importance of the planning process and how the process itself must be inclusive to build equitable food systems. In terms of community engagement and empowerment, planners should broaden their outreach strategies and strive to have as much representation and engagement from those who are most affected and those who have historically been left out of the conversation. An inclusive process is one that should go beyond traditional participatory planning practices, and acknowledge and embrace the expertise and experience within communities (see Food Access Policy Change through Authentic Resident Engagement).
A good process for food systems planning should resemble a good economic development planning process, or a good transportation process: a balance between overarching aspirations for a community as often outlined in Master Plans, and specific strategies to reach these aspirations. While this resource is focused on specific planning tools and strategies, getting buy-in from the public and policymakers to create them is much easier when a plan’s aspirations can help to formalize and operationalize these strategies. For example, predating the passage of Detroit, Michigan’s Urban Agriculture Ordinance was the city’s master plan, which laid the groundwork for such an ordinance by recognizing the value of nutritious food, community gardening, and urban agriculture.14 Plans like these, which contain language that affirms the need for a strong and resilient local food system, can greatly facilitate the policy work that comes later: the ordinances, the resolutions, and the funding streams that actualize the goals and policies within the plan.
Food Access Policy Change Through Authentic Resident Engagement
The Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) team and its Advisory Committee members developed a definition and a set of working principles to provide a template for authentic resident engagement in food access policy change. In many communities, this means reaching out to community and base-building organizations that already have deep and trusted relationships with residents, or engaging directly with residents themselves. Planners, policy and advocacy organizations, government and public health officials, and others should embrace the capacity, knowledge, and experience already present in dynamic and resilient communities and create a more inclusive process.
14Detroit, Mich., Master Plan Of Policies (2009), https://detroitmi.gov/sites/detroitmi.localhost/files/2021-05/Master%20Plan%20Text.pdf.