At the 2003 APA National Planning Conference in Denver, the late Jerome Kaufman, FAICP, former professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, gave a keynote address on the significance of community and regional food planning. He questioned why planners would plan for air, water, and housing, but not food. This keynote inspired and motivated Deanna Glosser, president and CEO of Environmental Planning Solutions, Inc. and former APA Divisions Council vice-chair, to act. She reached out to Kaufman to explore the possibilities of creating a food system planning steering committee. Kaufman invited Kami Pothukuchi, associate professor of urban planning at Wayne State University, earlier collaborations with whom produced papers to make a case for systematic food planning in communities and regions. Glosser organized periodic conference calls and served as a liaison with APA’s divisions and administrative structures, including key staff members responsible for the annual conference and APA’s Legislative and Policy Committee.
As a result, in 2004 a group of members led by Glosser, Kaufman and Pothukuchi established the Food System Planning Steering Committee. In preparation for the 2005 APA National Planning Conference in San Francisco, this committee explored ways to raise the visibility of food system planning issues within the organization and bring together planning professionals, food system practitioners and academic researchers on an ongoing basis.
For the first time in APA’s history, the 2005 National Planning Conference included a special focus on food system planning. An unexpectedly high number of 80 planners responded to the call for papers; selected papers were organized in six tracks. An informal meeting at this conference was joined by a couple of dozen attendees interested in food planning issues as well as APA President Paul Farmer who offered support and encouragement. These efforts established the Food System Planning Group, which included members of the initial steering committee and general APA members. More members joined the steering committee, including Branden Born (University of Washington), Samina Raja (University at Buffalo), and Wendy Mendes (University of British Columbia).
Since that first gathering, the Food System Planning Group met regularly via phone. They organized the call for food planning sessions at the 2006 APA National Planning Conference in San Antonio, deliberated on the group’s activities, and produced a White Paper on food planning and policy. Following the presentation of the White Paper to a meeting of APA chapter delegates in 2006, the steering committee was given the green light by APA’s Legislative and Policy Committee to develop a food planning policy guide for consideration by the organization.
In 2009, the Food System Planning Group assumed a new name — the APA Food Systems Planning Interest Group, or FIG for short. APA-FIG held annual meetings at the APA National Conference, and opportunities for networking remotely for food systems planning professionals.
In 2018, the APA-FIG Leadership Committee began the process to formalize the Interest Group as an official Division of the American Planning Association. In 2019 the Interest Group finalized a petition of 300 members and took the request to become a Division to APA’s Divisions Board, formally achieving Division status in early 2020.
Led by Kaufman, Pothukuchi, and Glosser, and with the participation of nearly three dozen APA members and food system experts, the draft Community and Regional Food Planning Policy Guide was presented to the entire Chapter Delegates Assembly at the 2007 APA National Planning Conference in Philadelphia. Approved by the Assembly and later the Legislative and Policy Committee, the policy guide was adopted by the APA Board on May 11, 2007. The Policy Guide stands as a landmark achievement of the group, signaling the institutionalization of food planning issues within the nation’s premier organization of planners.
Since publishing the Policy Guide, FIG members have made an array of contributions to APA’s food systems planning research, education, and policy efforts, such as:
- 2008 A Planners Guide to Community and Regional Food Planning: Transforming Food Environments, Facilitating Healthy Eating
- 2009 ‘Zoning for Public Markets and Street Vendors,’ Zoning Practice, February
- 2009 Planning magazine: Special Issue on Food Systems Planning
- 2010 ‘Food Systems Planning,’ PAS QuickNotes, February
- 2010 ‘Zoning for Urban Agriculture,’ Zoning Practice, March
- 2010 Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System
- 2011 Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy, Sustainable Places
- 2011 Investing in Healthy, Sustainable Places through Urban Agriculture
- 2012 Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems: A National Scan and Evaluation of Local Comprehensive and Sustainability Plans
- 2013 Growing Food Connections
- 2014 Growing Food Connections Policy Database