What community personnel and resources are you overlooking?
The recent emergence and increased demand for local food provides an opportunity for urban and rural communities to discuss and connect around issues of health, food access and security, local economies, and ways to integrate good food from farm –or urban homestead– to table more effectively and efficiently.
A community’s planning and economic development office is a critical resource for these discussions, but is sometimes overlooked by local food and farm advocates as a valuable partner in planning a community food system and addressing pressing community issues like food access and food insecurity. The American Planning Association (APA) recently outlined why planners need to be involved and what outcomes can be achieved through sound community food system planning.
According to the APA (2011), community food system planning should:
- Preserve existing and support new opportunities for local and regional urban and rural agriculture;
- Promote sustainable agriculture and food production practices;
- Support local and regional food value chains, networks, business clusters and infrastructure involved in the processing, packaging, and distribution of food;
- Facilitate community food security, or equitable physical and economic access to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate, and sustainably grown food at all times across a community, especially among vulnerable populations;
- Support and promote good nutrition and health, and;
- Facilitate the reduction of solid food-related waste and develop a reuse, recovery, recycling, and disposal system for food waste and related packaging.
Additionally, the APA recently released an extensive report on planning for food access and community-based food systems. Therefore, more community planners are becoming engaged in discussions around food and farming and aware of the critical importance food system planning has for present and future needs. Community planners should not be overlooked, but be enlisted by those working on local food and farm issues as a key partner.