The American Planning Association Food Division is a coalition of planners and allied professionals who have come together to advance food systems planning at the local, regional, state, or national level. APA FOOD provides networking opportunities for professionals engaged in food systems planning; professional development and mentoring opportunities for new and seasoned planners wishing to learn more about food systems planning; and much more.

In 2018, the APA Food Systems Planning Interest Group (APA-FIG) Leadership Committee began to pursue status as an APA Division, completing APA’s official petition. In early 2020, the APA-FIG officially became APA’s newest Division, APA FOOD. As a division, our fundamental goal is to help planners build stronger, more just, equitable, and self-reliant local, community, and regional food systems. By serving as a platform for collaboration, information, and leadership, we strive to further integrate principles of food systems planning with other areas of community and regional planning for the benefit of present and future generations. To learn more about why we sought division status and the what we will work on as a division, please read our Purpose and Needs Statement.

Below are the mission, key goals, and key definitions of APA FOOD.


The mission of APA FOOD is to help build stronger, more sustainable, just, equitable, self-reliant, and resilient community and regional food systems that, through planning practice, are integrated with other community systems, for present and future generations.


(1) Support the advancement of food systems planning by providing networking, resource sharing, education, and professional development opportunities to planners and allied professionals.

(2) Strengthen the profession of food systems planning:

  • such that food systems planning is recognized as a core area of community and regional planning practice that is equal to and integrated with land use, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, housing and other areas of mainstream planning practice; and
  • such that food systems planning is recognized as a core area of urban and regional planning practice by local, regional and state/provincial governments, and the various organizations that represent* or work for/with them**.


Food System

The food system is commonly defined as the complex set of activities, processes, and relationships related to food production, processing, distribution, marketing, retailing, acquisition, preparation, consumption, and waste management.

Food Systems Planning

Food systems planning is a dynamic profession that works to improve the well-being of people and their communities by building more sustainable, just, equitable, self-reliant, and resilient community and regional food systems for present and future generations. Food systems planning emphasizes, strengthens and makes visible the interdependent and inseparable relationships between individual sectors from production to waste management. Food systems planning offers solutions to critical policy and planning  issues by seeing and leveraging connections to other health, social, economic and environmental issues.

Food systems planning involves:

  • the active, meaningful engagement of all stakeholders including governmental, community groups (non-governmental stakeholders, including a diverse range of cultures, and marginalized groups) and allied professionals (food policy councils or similar entities; public health, economic development, etc.) in food systems planning and policy making processes and decisions;
  • the preparation, development, implementation and evaluation of food system related elements/components of community-level plans (this could include neighborhood, area, municipal, county, multi-jurisdictional, regional, and state/provincial plans with a local/regional impact, or stand-alone plans);
  • the identification, tracking and analysis of food system challenges and opportunities (including social, health, economic, and environmental factors) within a community;
  • the development of community food systems-related goals and objectives;
  • the development, adoption, implementation, and evaluation of local, regional, and state/provincial policies (regulations, programs, projects, or public finance decisions that have a local or regional impact) that help a community strengthen its food system, provide solutions to community food system challenges, and achieve community goals and objectives.
  • the integration of food systems planning with land use, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, housing and other areas of urban and regional planning practice.

Food Systems Planner

Regardless of scale and place of work, a food systems planner is a professional planner who engages in food systems planning work, either full- or part-time, at the local, regional or state level. A food systems planner typically works for a local, regional or state government, a private consulting business, or a non-profit organization.

Food systems planners:

  • Understand how a food system functions;
  • Understand the complex, systems nature food systems planning;
  • Recognize that the food systems planning profession is closely linked to other allied professions (including public health, sustainability, environmental justice, economic development, etc.);
  • Recognize and acknowledge that systemic injustices and inequities in housing, community and economic development, transportation, and other systems are also evident in the food system and must be addressed;
  • Recognize that the food systems planner plays an important role of convener, facilitator and connector among allied professions and in communities;
  • Understand food systems should not be treated in isolation from other planning issues (e.g. housing, transportation);
  • Advise communities to take future steps that strengthen a community’s food system.


*This includes, but is not limited to, the American Planning Association, National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, ICMA, American Society of Landscape Architects, Global Planners Network (and its partners), U.S. Green Building Council, etc.

**This includes, but is not limited to, private sector and non-governmental planners working for consulting firms, for-profit businesses, or non-profit organizations that work directly or indirectly with local, regional, and state/provincial governments in a urban or regional planning capacity.

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