Faces of Food Systems Planning: Erica Hall

Name: Erica Hall, M.S. CED, MBA, ARM

Current Position: Board Chair/Exec Dir., Florida Food Policy Council, Exec Committee Vice Chair, Suncoast Sierra Club

What’s your favorite food?

Tie between BBQ and Italian Food

What do you enjoy about your work?

Meeting new people and learning about the interesting projects they are working on. Creating linkages and partnerships.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work?

Fighting to implement Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) principles in Food System work, especially now. 

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do?

Food Justice, food insecurity, nutrition insecurity, racial, social, climate and environmental justice. All areas fit together because they are interconnected. 

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner?

No, because I am not a planner by profession. I am a Community Development Professional, with a legal background. My planning experience comes from my work in the fields of the built environment, urban planning, sustainability, and resiliency. 

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with?

As a BIPOC leader in this space, Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) is the biggest hurdle. This current system creates a racialized landscape in which people of color tend to experience worse health outcomes than white people. Black, Latinx and Native American communities face some of the steepest environmental barriers to socioeconomic well-being. These barriers include but are not limited to: segregated communities with substandard healthy food options, hazardous housing conditions, and unwalkable neighborhoods that are systematically polluted. It has not been dealt with as evidenced by the recent turn of events, politically, economically and racially.  However, in light of a new Administration, there is hope these hurdles will begin to be addressed. 

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field?

My perception of food systems planning hasn’t changed since I was first introduced to this work. In cities across the United States, racism still exists in built form. There’s a long history of intentionally racist policies such as race-restricted covenants preventing minority groups from moving to certain areas, redlining that limited access to housing finance, which concentrated nonwhite residents in neighborhoods that were then systematically underserved. These policies have had long-term negative impacts on access to healthy foods, jobs, wealth creation, health, and countless other socioeconomic factors. As previously stated, I am hopeful that with a new Administration that is focusing on environmental justice, climate change, and food justice, we will change the dynamics of years of systemic and structural racism. 

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner?

As a BIPOC leader, my influences historically were people like W.E.B. DuBois and Dorothy Mae Richardson, a community activist who fought against redlining. Her efforts led to the founding of Pittsburgh-based Neighborhood Housing Services, along with the national group now known as NeighborWorks America, one of the leading community development institutions. I worked for NeighborWorks America for seven years in the General Counsel’s office.

As a food systems planner? Currently, one of my influences is Julian Agyeman, Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning, Tufts University, who is an urban planning academic who teaches a course on food justice. I am also a fan of BlackSpace, a collective of 200 Black designers, architects, artists, and urban planners, committed to Black-centered planning and design. The organization works through community workshops, planning exercises, and cooperative design efforts to proactively bring Black voices and concerns into a development process that has long ignored them.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field?

Be flexible and open in your work, which may lead you to unexpected but surprisingly fulfilled places. What makes you successful in your work? My flexibility, adaptability, listening ability, collaboration, partnership, and network building.   What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work? GIS Mapping Data, research, zoning and comprehensive codes, policies, land laws. 

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school?

Again, my education is in Community Economic Development and a Global MBA so not applicable. However, had I known what I know now, I may have gone to planning school.

How do you think COVID 19 will shape/change your job/food systems?

COVID has already changed the way we do our work. Meetings, convenings and discussions have gone virtual, with very little in person meetings. Due to racial and social injustice, food systems planning is being revisited using a JEDI intersectional lens.

*Some portions edited for length.

Sept. 23rd Membership Meeting – register today!

We’re excited to resume our 4th Thursday Membership Meetings on September 23rd 3pm/4pm/5pm/6pm start time from West-East. We have a new registration link, so please sign up here. We have lots to discuss, and lots of opportunities to get engaged and help grow our Division. 

See you on the 23rd!

APA FOOD Executive Committee

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Janice Hill

Name: Janice Hill, AICP

Current Position: Executive Planner and Farmland Protection Manager; Owner, Acreage43560, LLC – A Local Food and Farmland Consulting Firm. Janice Hill, AICP, has worked in the planning field for 37 years. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania where she envisioned local food production in North Philadelphia in the early 1980s, Janice works as executive planner for Kane County, IL. She is also the owner of Acreage43560 LLC, a farmland consultancy.

What do you currently enjoy about your work?

I enjoy the mix of computer and field work.  Taking a trip “into the field” is usually the best part of my week, camera in hand always. I cannot understand why some planners only use google maps; there is no substitute for eyeing your subject area in person. 

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work?

In the past as a municipal planner, it was the planning commission night meetings, and then the long drive home.  At the same time, plan commissioners are some of my favorite people, dedicated to making their communities the best, volunteering their time.  I’ve learned a lot from the municipal and county commissioners I’ve worked with during my 37 years in planning.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do?

It’s hard to separate a portion of the food system out from the rest, but I am first a land use planner, it’s the first lens I use in all my work. We need the land base to produce food (even food grown in the built environment) and I believe all planners should first be well-schooled in land use.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? 

I’m a land use planner first, systems thinker second, farmland protection specialist third and local food planner and advocate, not only as a professional but as a farm family granddaughter.  I don’t take it for granted and I believe all people deserve fresh and local food, and menu items cooked from scratch. 

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with?

The greatest challenge was overcoming a disappointment when a multi-year project failed when handed over to a private operator after being in the public/community hands for years. I still have faith in public/private partnerships, but in the food and farm sector we still have a lot to learn about making the relationship work successfully.  It has been done more in other sectors like transportation; growing local foods isn’t the same as building local roads. 

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field?

Many of us feel that the pandemic pushed the average shopper into awareness of the local food system by showing the weaknesses of our current centralized system.  Also the results of the highly processed foods are showing in our health. 

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner?

My first mentor and influencer is my dear friend since undergrad days, Barry Miller, a planner extraordinaire from Berkeley, CA. We’ve been friends since age 18, and I remember I suggested first, after seeing his hand-drawn maps, that he should be a planner; and two years later, when I was dissatisfied with clinical psych classes, he suggested I take a social planning class. We both have extremely successful careers and I can’t imagine either of us taking different career paths.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work?

I believe all planners should be trained in land use and zoning first and should spend time in public sector planning working “at the counter” at some planning office.  And field work is essential. I worry that too many planners rely on the screen instead of their own field work.  Push away from the screen: aerial photography doesn’t begin to show everything.  Also talk to people, find out what their ideas and thoughts are about their environment, neighborhood, gardens, farms, tabletops, shops, etc. 

I strongly believe that planners should build their design skillset: photography, film, map-making. I believe policy comes second to design and spatial skills.  Training planners to understand fundamentals of land use, design, geography, soils, and water resources must come before learning about change.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school?

Nothing, it was perfect for me.  I was ready but I had already taken a few courses as an undergraduate in an undergraduate planning program, which there aren’t that many of. If I was starting now without undergraduate coursework, I’d become familiar with map-making, basic hand-drawing, photography, videography, public speaking, and work on my social skills to be comfortable engaging with all kinds of people.

How do you think COVID 19 will shape/change your job/food systems?

I’m hopeful that in the future every school has large garden, greenhouse and chef and that kids don’t start to study local foods in grad school; they start in kindergarten!

*Some portions edited for length.

APA Food Annual Business Meeting May 20th

Our Annual Membership meeting is coming up on May 20th from 6pm Eastern/5pm Central/4pm Mountain/3pm Pacific. This will be our Annual business meeting that would usually occur during during the National Planning Conference. We are moving it up a week from our usual 4th Thursday date to miss the long Memorial Day weekend and so those who want to attend all sessions of the virtual NPC are able to fully participate. This is your chance to learn more about the Division, hear about our work plan and budget priorities, and meeting others engaged in food systems planning.

Please Register in Advance: https://washington.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAufuqtrzwjGNYPvlRT0ZErmwQ1IsSD8eMe 

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Luis Nieves-Ruiz

Name: Luis Nieves-Ruiz, AICP

Current Position: Economic Development Manager for the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council (ECFRPC), a council of governments located in Orlando, FL.

Lusi Nieves-Ruiz, AICP

What do you currently enjoy about your work?

My current position allows me the flexibility to pursue my individual interests and passions including regional food systems. This requires me to identify potential funding sources and continuously develop new scopes of work, project methodologies, and grant applications, forcing me to flex my creative and entrepreneurial muscles quite often. Working for a technical assistance provider, I also get to be involved in different types of projects such as economic impact modeling, industry cluster analysis, and resiliency planning, among other areas. In turn, the experiences gained through these projects have helped to inform how I approach my food systems work. Finally, I get the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of stakeholders including economic development agencies, public health departments, and academic institutions, among other organizations.  This always keeps work interesting. 

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work?

Money is always a problem for our agency. Every year we have to raise about 60 percent of our budget through grants and contracts. You are often forced to do more with less.  In my case, I am usually working on three or four different projects at the same time:  not only managing the project, but also doing the basic research, designing the document’s graphics and layout, and doing the final write up. I used to have to do most of this work by myself. Recently, I have been able to hire other planners to assist me with some of these tasks. The lack of consistent funding is usually a deterrent for me to focus on the implementation of long-term projects and initiatives. Another challenge is time. You can have great ideas, but sometimes there is not enough time to make them a reality. 

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do?

My research work has three focus areas. I spent a good part of the last five years developing a sound methodology to assess regional food production systems. This includes identifying and mapping critical assets such as agricultural lands and food production businesses (farms, processors, and distributors). My approach to studying food systems is rooted in my interest in industry cluster analysis. I like to understand how the parts of the system work or do not work together. My planning background has also helped me to understand that land use regulations can act as barriers to the development of regional food systems. I specifically study how jurisdictions regulate food uses in their zoning codes. Finally, as an economic development official, I am working to develop a framework to use regional food systems to revitalize distressed communities.  Food production can help to generate much needed jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities in low-income areas. 

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? 

If you had asked me this question five years ago, I would have said no. However, after being awarded $150K in grants and contracts to complete this type of work, I can confidently call myself a food systems planner. It is all about validation. When I started doing food systems work in Orange County, most of my peers regarded this work as a nice hobby. Thankfully, I had a planner colleague that really believed in my work more than I did myself. Winning the first grant to study Orange County’s regional food production system was definitely a game changer for me.  It helped me to start developing a body of work in the food systems area. These projects helped me to be selected as a Regional Food Economies Fellow by the Wallace Center at Winrock International in 2018. This has certainly been the highest point of my career as a food systems planner. Currently, I dedicate about 40 percent of my time to work on food systems projects.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with?

I think that there is generally some antagonism between planners and food systems practitioners. Most food systems practitioners are entrepreneurs that want things to happen immediately. On the other hand, urban planners take a long view and understand that change takes time. I witnessed some of this dynamic when East Central Florida started its food policy council. After a couple of months, most of the food business owners had left the group. One thing that I have started to do is try to bridge the gap between both groups by developing some common language and tools. I am still working on it. 

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner?

Alissa Barber Torres, my first planning supervisor in Orange County, taught me two very important career lessons. First, it is important to let young planners pursue their passion areas. She provided me with the opportunity and space to work on my food systems planning and economic development projects. These two areas are currently the backbone of my planning career. I continue to use these lessons in my planning work and apply with the younger planners in the office. Sadly, my journey as a food system planner has been more lonesome. I can’t think of any other planners that were doing similar work to mine. Through my involvement with the Wallace Center and the Council for Development Finance Agencies, I met some great food systems practitioners.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work?

Food systems planning is a very broad field. While it is important for planners to be conversant in all areas, at some point you will need to identify your own niche within the profession. To get to this point though, you need to understand what your strengths are.  Some of the skills that I use in my food systems work include Geographic Information Systems (GIS), data analysis, and policy analysis. Finally, to be successful in this line of work you have to be a good communicator. I credit my experience with Toastmasters for my ability to develop a concise message that that can be tailored to different audiences. 

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school?

Most planning school students are idealists by nature. They go to planning school to learn how to change their communities for the better. However, professional planners often get caught in the “planning review process wheel” which prioritizes short-term projects (rezonings, site plan developments, etc..) over long-term policy solutions. There is also a plenty of antagonism towards planning and government in general. Your role is to convince multiple stakeholders and elected officials that what you propose is the best option for the community. Therefore, this idealism needs to be tempered by the understanding that in real life change is slow and incremental in nature. To become a more effective planner you need to become a better listener and focus on building bridges to allow for real collaboration. 

How do you think COVID 19 will shape/change your job/food systems?

It has been interesting to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred interest in mapping regional food systems. In the ten years I have been involved in food systems, I have never seen so many webinars discussing ways to map community food assets. However, most of these efforts will fall short if there is no concrete goal behind the mapping exercise. The end goal should not be to produce a cool map, but to develop an analysis tool to help food systems practitioners identify trends and patterns in the data. 

 Moreover, by exacerbating the inequities and brokenness of the current food system, the pandemic has also opened opportunities to discuss alternatives to the status quo. Every crisis is an opportunity. Elected officials and other stakeholders might now be more open to addressing food deserts and identifying ways to increase local food production. 

*Some portions edited for length.

Local Food Systems Key to Healthy, Resilient, Equitable Communities

From Planning magazine Winter 2021

This story is part of Planning’s Disruptors series, a year-long look at the trends, challenges, and opportunities driving change in our communities. Visit Planning magazine online to read the article in full.

By Cynthia Currie and Mary Hammon

Call for Student Papers

AFHVS Logo

The Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) invites submissions from undergraduate and graduate students to the 2021 AFHVS Student Research Paper Awards. The papers can come from students in a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and should be on some topic of relevance to the Society’s focus. See more details in the full Call for Papers.

Winners will be invited/expected to present their paper at the June 2021 virtual conference co-hosted by:

  • The Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS)
  • Agriculture Food & Human Values Society (AFHVS)
  • Canadian Association for Food Studies (CAFS)
  • Society for the Anthropology of Food & Nutrition (SAFN)

Each award also includes:

  • The opportunity to present at the 2021 virtual conference;
  • Free registration to the 2021 virtual conference (seeCall for Abstracts);
  • A two-year membership in the Society;
  • $300 cash prize (not available to students that are not U.S. citizens, due to IRS restrictions).

The committee may also choose to award honorable mentions, which do not include the monetary items.

See more details in the full Call for Papers.

Submission: Email to spa-chair@afhvs.org by 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time on Sunday, February 21, 2021.

About the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society

About Agriculture and Human Values, the Journal of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society

Questions? Contact spa-chair@afhvs.org. The current chair of the Student Paper Award Committee is Dr. Megan Horst, Portland State University, Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Vincenzo Ferriola

Name: Vincenzo Ferriola

Current Position: APA Food System’s Division’s Student Representative

Vincenzo Ferriola

Vincenzo Ferriola is a Master’s Student in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. Vincenzo has received their Bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Rowan University. Vincenzo is currently interning with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to support Growing from the Root: Philadelphia’s Urban Agriculture Plan. Vincenzo has previously worked with Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative to co-manage a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) in West Philadelphia and curate workshops in agroecological growing practices for high school students. Vincenzo is committed to improving food sovereignty and increasing local food production with underserved populations.

What do you enjoy about your work? Being that this is my first position with a city agency and one of my first professional positions, I am finding that the work that I am doing can impact an entire population of around 1.5 million people. My previous positions have been at much smaller scales and I am now understanding the power dynamics between the government and the residents of Philadelphia.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? This position has challenged me to think critically, keeping an open mind. For example, while I might advocate for a fruit tree to be planted in the public right of way (such as a sidewalk or traffic median), there are many people who don’t have the same desire. Instead of making decisions too quickly, which might retrace some of the problematic and racist planning practices of history, we should be intentional and deliberate, hearing and uplifting voices that need to be heard. That is what I envision a more successful planning process might look like.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do? I am quite new to the food systems planning world, although agriculture has been a part of my upbringing and continues to motivate me. The Master’s program requires students to choose a concentration that best fits one’s professional goals. I resonated the most with the community economic development concentration as my personal and professional motivations are grounded in community visualized and realized processes.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? While I am still new to this profession, I am constantly learning and unlearning, growing and pruning old branches. I do consider myself a budding food systems planner. Food is something we all need. Fresh, locally grown, culturally significant food is something we need even more. I’d like to be able to provide (at least some of) the resources to make this possible for the many communities that make up Philadelphia. This requires a holistic approach to understand and appreciate not only a place, but also the people and the unique cultures that make it so enriching.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? Even though I am new to Philadelphia Parks and Recreation, I am aware that there is a complicated and lengthy process to attain land rights for urban farming. Agriculture is not legally seen as a land use in Philadelphia, which makes land sovereignty and ultimately self-sufficiency unattainable. When land is seemingly bought so quickly by developers, it is unjust that agriculture does not receive the same support. This is a racial inequity, currently and historically, as black and brown growers are more adversely impacted by discriminatory land use laws. This makes me eager to learn more about land use laws, land tenure, and zoning, to learn how I can best advocate for people who need the most support.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? Quite honestly, I did not know what food systems planning was a year ago. I’ve worked on an urban farm in West Philly, but it wasn’t until taking a graduate course in Metropolitan Food Systems Planning with Domenic Vitiello that I fully (or at least more fully) understood the workings and dynamics of this field. Food systems planning is not uni-dimensional. There is no one position that precisely fits the description of a food systems planner.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? I owe an incalculable amount of respect to Philadelphia’s Director of Urban Agriculture, Ash Richards. They have been my role model since their appointment to this position. Ash’s practice embodies intentionality and consensus building, which is what I strive to incorporate as a new professional in the planning field. They aim to uplift voices who have traditionally been left out and concretely emphasize racial justice. I cannot thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to learn under them.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work? Planning should be a reflective practice. Haste might produce more, but does not mean it’s a superior outcome. I believe it’s imperative to be thoughtful and deliberate, to fully ground decisions in what is needed for the people who need it. To understand the outcomes and potential consequences of decisions. To practice empathy, sympathy at the least.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school?  I made the decision to attend planning school immediately after graduating from undergrad, which put me at a different place professionally from the majority of my peers. Rather than seeing this as a deficit, I turned it into an opportunity to learn not only from my professors, but also from my cohort. There is less of a formula in planning than there is in civil engineering, both in learning (and unlearning) and in practicing. I found myself initially seeking the one path that led to the final product. But, planning is not just about a product, in my opinion, it’s about the process.

How do you think COVID 19 will shape/change your job/food systems? Being that I started my current position during COVID-19, I have acclimated myself to a work-from-home mode. This has been a bit of a challenge to connect with coworkers on a more personal level, although I’m hoping for in-person, socially distanced meetings in the future.

COVID-19 really started to impact Philadelphia mid-March into April. Grocery stores with 45+ minute waits and empty shelves were alarming and anxiety inducing. I looked to farm shares and found the majority to have wait lists. As the supply and demand leveled out over the past few months, grocery stores have been able to restock most of their products, especially the products in high demand. I hope this pandemic strengthens the case for localized food production with an increased need for urban agriculture.

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Molly Riordan

Name: Molly Riordan

Current Position: Good Food Purchasing Coordinator, City of Philadelphia

Molly Riordan in greenhouse
450

Molly is currently the Good Food Purchasing Coordinator at the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health Division of Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention. She is responsible for helping implement the City’s Nutrition Standards and increase the amount of local, sustainably-grown, fairly-produced food the City purchases for its food programs at its prisons, summer and after school programs, homeless shelters, and other congregate settings. Beyond purchasing, her work includes policy and program development to support a good food economy in Philadelphia.

Molly earned her Master’s in Regional Planning from Cornell University, and has worked at the intersection of agriculture and economic development through several nonprofits and academic roles. She was a lead author of The Promise of Urban Agriculture, a national study of commercial farming in urban areas, and of Good Eats, an assessment of the Philadelphia food economy’s potential to support health, equity, and economic growth.

What do you enjoy about your work? I get to explore new ideas about what a good food future looks like, and figure out ways to make it happen. The “how” is always more complicated, but working within the confines of a public agency makes me stretch my creative muscles to figure out new ways to achieve that future.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? One of the most challenging parts of my work at the City is raising the profile of food as a priority area. Food system planners know that food cuts across so many other priority areas for city leaders: land use, housing, small business development, large business attraction, health, waste reduction, gardening & farming, education, climate resilience and adaptation, and on and on. But governments don’t often look at systems: they look at specific issues and how to solve the problem at hand. It’s hard to keep people’s attention long enough to explain what “good food” means, let alone get them to envision the multi-pronged approach to realizing a good food economy.

What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do? The core of my work is focused on food programs funded via public dollars, but to change that food I engage distributors, manufacturers, and restaurants. That means my work is wide-ranging: I work with distributors to develop reporting metrics to find out what percent of City food comes from regional sources; I work with the Drexel Food Lab to engage manufacturers in producing lower-sodium foods that meet good food criteria. I work with groups engaged in urban agriculture and waste reduction to create intersections and synergies that support our vision for a good food future. My work is seeing those synergies through, and every day is different.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? I do consider myself a food systems planner, because while I’m not focused on land use policy or economic development, my work hinges on understanding interrelationships across the food system and developing policy and program recommendations that can advance positive change in one area without having negative consequences in another area. The “plans” may not look like what most planners think of when they think “plan,” but the functions are the same.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? Philadelphia has a deep history of urban agriculture, primarily through the work of people of color and especially Black farmers and gardeners. And while the City made some concessions to urban agriculture and ran some of its own programming, there was no plan in place to support growers in securing land and resources to continue to farm. Through a multi-year effort led by urban agriculture advocates and supported by City leaders, staff, and elected officials, we finally got the funding to hire an Urban Agriculture Director who is leading the process of developing an urban ag plan for Philadelphia. It is a strong process rooted in community engagement and undoing white supremacy, and it would not have been possible if that urban agriculture community had not worked together for years to make it happen.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? It is a lot more varied than what I had originally envisioned, where you are either the Food Policy Director of a city or working for a handful of consulting firms. There are so many ways to work in this field that, on their face, have nothing to do with planning, but in which a planning background truly sets a person apart.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? Susan Christopherson was my advisor at Cornell and initially woke me up to regional economic development through cluster activities. Becca Jablonski was earning her PhD at Cornell at the same time, and I had the opportunity to work with her on an economic impact assessment of a regional food hub that laid the foundation for the creation of the Local Food Impact Calculator. Working with Becca set me on my path to understanding the potential for regional food distribution as a means of wealth creation in rural areas, and her work continues to inspire me and guide my upstream approach to food systems change.

Do you have any advice for someone entering the food systems planning field? What makes you successful in your work? What skills do you use the most in your food systems planning-related work? Talk to as many people doing the work you think you’re interested in as you can, and ask them questions. Also, see if they have any jobs available. I did not intern or work in the planning field before entering graduate school, and I think I would have asked more or different questions if I had. Asking others for their expertise—and everyone has expertise—is the primary thing that I learned from planning and what has helped me in my work. You can’t change things through sheer will or good ideas; you have to engage others’ expertise so that together you can come to a better solution than any single person alone could design.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school?  How much of the most valuable learning happens outside of the classroom. I worked two part-time jobs while I was in grad school, so I did not have as much time as my classmates for volunteer work weekends or studios that took us off campus for several days at a time. I couldn’t have done much differently from a financial standpoint, but maybe I could have restructured some things to take full advantage of that off-campus learning.

How do you think COVID 19 will shape/change your job/food systems? When COVID-19 hit, it was like everyone who had ever eaten a meal was all of a sudden an expert in the food supply chain and emergency food provision. And while it was tough at first to bring other staff up to speed on what is and is not possible or ideal in that emergency moment, it did make food a priority in a way that it hadn’t been before. And then George Floyd’s murder and the protests for racial justice opened everyone’s eyes to the fact that inequitable food access is a consequence of systemic and institutional racism in the United States. The dual fights to end white supremacy and end food insecurity intersect in food systems planning, and I hope that we can finally use our tools to reshape a future that is better for all of us.

Food Systems Division – Link to join the Division now live on APA

We’re thrilled to announce that the link to sign up for membership for the new APA Food Systems Division is now live! Join us and become a founding member of the Division today.

Visit https://www.planning.org/divisions/food/ to sign up.

Over the next few months, we’ll be transitioning to our new APA website and more information will be available.

Please join us for our first (virtual) member meeting on Thursday, August 27th 6:00 ET. We’ll hold a conversation about the Division’s goals and work plan and learn how you can get involved. We encourage you to register in advance: https://washington.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMud-iqpjMsG9T264YtcomfMUUEqHr2aHTM This will be the first of our membership meetings that will be held every other month, on the 4th Thursday.

First Membership Meeting
When: Thursday, August 27th 6-7pm ET/3-4pm PT
Where: Online

Register for the Membership Meeting & Happy Hour: https://washington.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJMud-iqpjMsG9T264YtcomfMUUEqHr2aHTM

We hope to see you there!
-The APA Food Systems Division Executive Committee