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Rebuilding the Food System

(post, Asta Schuette)

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(Cross posted at [""] and [""])

Well, I finished my first year of graduate school!  It's been a fantastic 9 months.  Although statistics got a bit hairy at times, it was a great first year.  As we all know, lot of learning goes on outside the classroom as well.  Recently I attended the American Planning Association's national conference in Minneapolis.  It was fantastic!  

The whole planning field is all new to me, but the more I learn the more I believe that urban planners will play a key role in improving the food system and food environment in the U.S.  Planners work in areas critical to improving our food including transportation, community development, environmental impact, and zoning.  Each of these areas can contribute to a more sustainable, safe, and healthy food system.    

The conference included a number of sessions on improving the food environment and urban agriculture.  Although many of the food-focused planners were primarily interested in food production in the urban setting, I see a lot of potential for linking rural and urban communities more fluidly through regional food systems.  There is no way that cities will be able to produce all the food they need to sustain themselves even with SPIN farming, roof-top gardens, and greenhouses heated via aquaculture.  

Of course there is still plenty to be done in the urban setting.  So if you live in a city and want to get involved here are some things you can do: 

- Develop a regional food policy council

- Make sure that food is in your city's comprehensive plan (I didn't even know such a thing existed until I attended the conference!)

- Review zoning rules for livestock

- Review zoning rules for community gardens 

- Tear out your lawn and put in a vegetable garden.  Jac Smit, has a great article title "Eat Half Your Law" if you want more information.

- Ask the city to line the streets with fruit bearing trees

- Ask the city to put a garden on city hall property.  The White House is doing, so should you!

- Push your legislators for 10% of the food to be grown within the city

- Make sure that grocery stores can easily accessing economic incentives developed by the city to open stores in under served areas

 - Work with the corner markets in your neighborhood to bring in fresh produce and low-fat dairy products

Looking at cities through the context of food, food security, and sustainability should help planners build healthier cities, healthier farms and rural communities, and reduce negative environmental externalities associated with the food we eat. 

For more information check out these sites: 
Agricultural Urbanism
The American Planning Association's Police Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning
Victory Gardens 2008+
American Farmland Trust