Help FIG Become an Official APA Division

The APA-FIG Leadership Committee is pursuing status as an APA Division. To make this happen we are required to complete APA’s official petition. We need 300 signatures and, so far,  we’re over half way there with 160 signatures. Help us reach our goal of 200 by August 1!

Here’s four easy ways to help!

  1. Sign the petition. (Note: you must be an APA member to sign the petition).
  2. Share the petition with other APA members of your regional or state APA chapters.
  3. Share with your colleagues through our Facebook and Twitter posts.
  4. Support the leadership committee as we make the transition from an interest group to a division. Please email Kara Martin at

Why become a division?

Last fall we survey APA-FIG members online and over 94% were support becoming an official division. Here’s why in a nutshell:

Food is a sustaining and enduring necessity. Yet among the basic essentials for life — air, water, shelter, and food — only food has been absent as a focus of serious professional planning interest. With the 2007 adoption of the Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning, the American Planning Association signaled its intent to include the food system as a critical area of planning interest. Since 2007, APA has provided a steady and growing body of guidance on community and regional food systems planning (e.g. PAS Reports, Memos, Essential Info Packets, and, importantly, the creation of APA’s Food Systems Interest Group (APA-FIG) in 2009). This collective guidance has helped bring to the forefront the cross-sectional impact of food systems on community and regional planning as a critical component of a healthy, sustainable, and resilient community.

What we will do as a division?

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 will:

  • Advance the profession of food systems planning so that it is recognized as a core area of community and regional planning practices.
  • Integrate principles of food systems planning with more traditional planning practices of  land use, transportation, economic development, parks and recreation, housing, and other areas of mainstream planning practice.
  • Provide leadership and intellectual resources to APA members and staff on food systems planning policies and issues.
  • Host networking, resource sharing, education, and professional development and mentoring opportunities to new and seasoned planners and allied professionals.
  • Engage other planners and allied professionals to shape local, state, regional, and federal food policy.

Please support APA-FIG as we take this next big step together!


APA-FIG Leadership Committee

Washington State Food Systems Roundtable Releases 25-year Vision for Food System

WA_FS_Prospectus_072417_FINALThe Washington State Food Systems Roundtable (RT) recently released the long-awaited Prospectus, which presents a 25-year vision for Washington State’s Food System. The Roundtable was a broad, diverse coalition of public and private partners committed to creating a food system that promotes the health of people, fosters a sustainable and resilient environment, is economically vibrant, and creates an equitable and just society. The Roundtable prided itself on its broad representation, including government, Tribes, local food policy councils, agriculture, food enterprises, labor, anti-hunger and nutrition advocates, economic development organizations, academia, public health, philanthropy and others.

This Prospectus is a road map for how Washington might achieve this vision and provides a framework for collaboration, engagement and shared responsibility. The Prospectus provides the opportunity for alignment across sectors, distributed leadership, and continued development of strategies over time. Washington’s Prospectus is not the first state to have undergone a statewide food systems planning effort. In 2006, the Michigan Food Policy Council produced a report of recommendations, and, in 2015, Vermont released its ten year Farm to Plate Strategic Plan. These plans have moved forward in implementation through the support of backbone organization. A local organization, Food Action, will steward Washington’s Prospectus and begin bringing the strategies into fruition.

Urban Food Planning: Seeds of Transition in the Global North



Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn, NY. Photo by Rositsa Ilieva.

Bridging community food systems and urban planning matters, now more than ever. Over the past fifteen years, more than 100 scholarly publications on the topic have appeared in architecture and urban planning journals worldwide and over 90 local food systems strategies have been released by local administrations in the Global North alone. On October 15, 2015, the first international urban food policy agenda – the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact – was signed by more than 100 cities and set a precedent, charting a new avenue for sustainability-minded planners. Unsurprisingly, thus far, research has not kept the pace with these innovations, leaving many opportunities untapped and the limits and promises of urban food planning insufficiently understood.

Against this backdrop my research, and my new book “Urban Food Planning: Seeds of Transition in the Global North” (Routledge, 2016), seek to lay the groundwork for urban food planning scholarship and practice from a global perspective. A central goal of this endeavor is to systematically assess and celebrate the emergent food systems planning initiatives and support the work of an increasing number of researchers, community advocates, and policymakers striving to advance sustainable cities and community food systems in tandem. To this end, I examine emergent urban food planning innovations through the lens of theories of sociotechnical transitions which enable me to discern the nonlinear dynamics of socio-spatial change and identify levers that can help steer future urban and food systems transitions. While the boundaries of the field are still in the making, it is fair to say that it encompasses both efforts to facilitate alternative practices, like urban agriculture and shopping at farmers markets as well as efforts to address anomalies in the mainstream food system, such as unequal access to fresh food retail, disproportionate urbanization of prime agricultural land, wobbly disaster preparedness of food distribution and transportation networks, and inefficient or nonexistent organic waste recycling infrastructure.

The practitioners behind innovative urban food planning practices are a broad constituency of urban food policy “entrepreneurs” having the common goal to make the urban food system work in the public interest to generate healthy, prosperous, and ecologically sound human settlements. Urban planners are just one group of practitioners across the many private practice professionals, activists, and government officials from a wide range of economic sectors and disciplines at the forefront of its development. Planners have, however, played a key role in advancing the urban food planning agenda by developing dedicated policy guides on the subject, creating working groups in their professional and academic associations on both sides of the Atlantic (e.g., the Food Interest Group of the American Planning Association [APA-FIG] in the US – the authors of this Blog, and the Sustainable Food Planning group of the Association of European Schools of Planning in Europe), and popularizing the topic through scientific journals, books, and academic conferences.

The evidence shows that urban food planning has grown into a new niche for social innovation, research, and practice and there are plenty of reasons and unique opportunities for planners to make a difference, while doing what they already do, only better. Planners who see food as priority in their work are still a minority, however, the public understanding that food is an urban system and that ensuring its sustainability is part of the responsibilities of local governments, in both developed and developing counties, has started gaining prominence over the past decade. In “Urban Food Planning,” I argue that there are at least 10 good reasons why now, more than ever, it is in planners’ interest to engage with urban food planning. Among these, are a rapidly expanding food systems planning community of practice to work with, a rising demand for expertise in urban food planning from both public, private, and civil society sectors, the potential for increasing the legitimacy of planning interventions, and the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mandated by the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Urban food planning – the bundle of government, business, and civil society practices aimed at building sustainable cities and food systems in tandem – is a “hybrid” social niche in-the-making, encompassing a host of creative conceptual, analytical, design, and organizational responses to fundamental questions such as: What’s wrong with the urban food system? Why should we care? How do we fix it? and Who is in charge? In fact, urban food planning is both a distinct practice and a bundle of place-based practices (e.g., community food security assessments, mapping existing and potential sites for urban agriculture and current demand, conducting regional foodshed analyses, devising comprehensive food systems strategies and plans, among many others). Local government provisions, such as zoning and financial incentives for fresh food stores, bans on fast food outlets in school districts, removal of building code barriers for rooftop greenhouses, or reducing restrictions for onsite processing and selling of produce, are also part of the bundle. Thus, differently from other niches for social innovation, like the UK-based Transition Towns movement for instance, urban food planning novelties stretch beyond the circles of citizens’ groups and community advocates alone.

Each practitioner involved in urban food planning possesses distinct strengths and competitive advantages to advance the global Agenda for just and sustainable food systems. Beginning to map and recognize such strengths, alongside the obvious limitations of working in a niche, is a task that needs to be timely addressed. One of the biggest challenges in trying to map a transition process in its early stages of development, however, is that the speed of change is such that by the time one takes a snapshot of a fragment of the system, the entire landscape has already changed – some novelties have died out, others have moved on, and new ones have emerged. This can be frustrating for the academic investigator, let alone the planner practitioner or the policymaker, seeking to legitimize their research, long-term plans, or policy recommendations. Yet, as food systems planner Martin Bailkey recently put it, not being able to keep up with the pace of innovation in the field is “a good challenge to have.”

A more stable suite of urban food planning practices has the potential to transition urban food planning from an unstable niche to a robust social innovation in the position to challenge incumbent planning and food system regimes, helping local governments and communities to pursue a “bolder vision for the city.” Strategic levers for change include opportunities to strengthen present endeavors to represent, understand, and transform the urban food system, as well as to legitimize city-level interventions in the public domain, but also to question its current assumptions and ideologies. In fact, as the narrative of the book cruises through different food planning novelties, the reader is cautioned that there is nothing inherently good in a new practice per se, nor there is anything inherently sustainable in the scale at which practices are carried out, however, both new ideas and local actions are fundamental in imagining and enacting societal transitions. And we, planners and allied professionals in the Global North, have the moral obligation to be at the forefront of this institutional and environmental transition.

Finally, the focus of “Urban Food Planning” is on experiences from the Global North, not because food systems planning innovations do not manifest in developing economies regions – in fact, they greatly do, but because the impact of rich cities on their local and global hinterlands is so extensive and, at the same time, so scarily well concealed, that every effort to address it offers a rare chance to break the myth that we are living in a benign and harmless cornucopia. Only by making visible and by appreciating the critical mass of city-regional food system innovations, taking place in our own backyards, can we debunk the delusion that food is working in the public interest and it is superfluous in sustainable urban development projects and strategies in wealthy states. The goal of integrating local food infrastructures in and around cities has been in urban planning’s DNA since its inception, but for over a century it has remained suppressed for cultural, political, and economic reasons. There has hardly ever been a better time to restore it.


Rositsa T. Ilieva, Ph.D.
Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy
Parsons School of Design
The New School, New York, NY 10003
@RositsaTIlieva, LinkedIN:

Meet up with APA-FIG at the National APA Conference May 6-9, 2017!

APA-FIG is excited to host a reception and annual meeting on May 8 at the conference – a chance for FIG members and other interested in food system planning to meet, mingle and get involved in FIG. Here’s a sneak peak of the food system sessions happening: Incentivizing the Sale of Healthy and Local Food; Incentivizing the Sale of Healthy and Local Food; Growing Food Connections for Community Change; Developing Vermont’s Food System through Planning; Safe, Active Routes to Healthy Food. If you come early, check out the mobile tour on May 5—Hudson Valley Local Agriculture and Foodshed. To learn more and register, visit


Exploring “The Color of Food” – A book and website by Natasha Bowens

The Color of Food by Natasha Bowens (New Society Publishers) is the result of the author’s multimedia project launched in 2010 to share and amplify stories of food sovereignty in communities of color.  It uses stories and photographs to tell stories of farmers and explore and document the relationships between race and food.  The Color of Food tells stories of individuals, their experiences with issues ranging from crop loss to farmworkers’ rights, connecting lives with the food sovereignty movement through firsthand storytelling and observation. A central aim is to serve as an outlet for the voices of people of color in food and farming.  As the author says, “If we cannot see and hear from our communities, we will not have a food system free of racial inequalities.”

The web-based companion ( to the book provides resources for food systems planners, workers, researchers, and anyone else interested exploring issues of race, food sovereignty, and inequality within the food system. It includes an online (free) map and directory of people of color leading food and farming businesses, including farms, farmers markets, and other organizations, as well as a photo blog. Recent posts include pieces from CivilEats about a resurgence of black farmers in Texas and how the food movement can learn from #blacklivesmatter. Another central feature of the online site is the Color of Food Speakers Collective – a list of people working in farming, education, activism, food justice, and other realms, available to speak at events and for organizations on a range of issues, intertwining racial disparities in the food movement, the importance of preserving culture and building community, and personal stories.

Connection to food systems planning

Topics of food justice, food equity, and “food deserts” have become increasingly visible throughout food systems planning and policy work, yet many of the people most directly (and often indirectly) impacted by these issues are not visible or do not control the systems that result in disparities. Addressing inequity in the food system is a priority of a substantial portion of food systems planning and policy work these days and The Color of Food, the website, and speaker collective can serve as a forum and resource for exploring issues of race, equity, access, and justice.  They can help planners deepen our understanding of the impact of the dominant food system on communities of color and the impact of food planning and policy on communities. It can be frustrating, disheartening, and difficult to take on issues of race, class, and social injustice, but as planners who believe in equity – or any type of planners at all, we must. As Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director of Food First put it recently in a post on CivilEats, in order to have a restorative food system, we must first tackle racism, and doing that shouldn’t be seen as “extra work” but rather “the” work.

By Erin Thoresen, APA-FIG member

July will be Dedicated to Food Systems Planning!

Throughout the month of July 2016, the American Planning Association (APA) will highlight and promote food systems planning.  In an effort to support this exciting campaign, the APA Food Systems Planning Interest Group (APA-FIG) will feature food systems planning related content across its blog and social media platforms.  We will post interviews with practicing planners and people working across the food system, showcase food systems research, and more.  Stay tuned for interviews with food systems planners from across the country, including but not limited to:

  • Sharon Lerman, City of Seattle
  • Ben Kerrick, Karen Karp and Partners (New York)
  • Branden Born, University of Washington Department of Urban Design and Planning

Join the conversation! We welcome your submissions – share comments, images, articles, research, and tell us about your work.  Join us on Facebook, Twitter (@APA_FIG or @APA_Planning), Instagram (@foodsystemsplanning), LinkedIn, and be sure to check out the FIG blog.  Use the hashtag #foodsystemsplanning when you post and tag APA-FIG.

FIG at APA National Planning Conference


Want to learn more about FIG or get involved? Curious about food systems planning?

Come to our Food Systems Planning Interest Group Annual Business and Network Meeting on Sunday, April 3rd at 6:30pm at Courduroy.  Click the link to learn more or search for conference activity #9005235.

The National Planning Conference has lots to offer in terms of sessions on food systems, food policy, health, and related topics.  You can search the conference program by track or use the topic tags to find your favorites.  Check out the sessions on food systems planning.

Aetna Foundation Announces 2016 Cultivating Healthy Communities Grant Program

aetnapicAetna Foundation just announced their 2016 Cultivating Healthy Communities grant program. To empower whole communities to lead healthier lives, their programming is focused on five domains:

  • Healthy Behaviors
  • Community Safety
  • Built Environment
  • Social/Economic Factors
  • Environmental Exposures

There is one RFP for the year and Aetna expects to award up to $2 million in grants to organizations in the continental United States through this program.

USDA 2016 Funding Opportunity

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has announced that funding is available for the fiscal year 2016 Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (FMLFPP) and Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP). To find information on how to apply to these programs, please visit and Applications are due May 12, 2016.



How to Conduct a Community Food System Assessment- A New Guide for Planners

APA’s current PAS (Planning Advisory Service) Memo focuses on how planners can conduct or support a community in a community food system assessment. A community food system assessment provides a comprehensive tool to identify the assets and barriers for a community’s food system. Conducted at the neighborhood, city, or even regional level, this assessment tool offers a systems approach that provides planners and the community ways to identify issues and solutions, engage the community, and inform policy-making. The Community Food System Assessments (Nov/Dec 2015) Memo, by Kara Martin and Tammy Morales, includes examples of assessments, resources, and a case study on Buffalo, New York to demonstrate how various communities have used this tool.

The Memo is just one of APA’s many resources focused on food system planning. The 2008 PAS Report, Planners Guide to Community and Regional Food Planning (PAS 554), by Samina Raja, Branden Born and Jessica Kozlowski Russell, is particularly helpful for understanding how planners play a role in the food environment. The policy report, Planning for Food Access and Community-Based Food Systems: A National Scan and Evaluation of Local Comprehensive and Sustainability Plans by Kimberley Hodgson (2012), is useful for communities incorporating food access into their comprehensive plans or sustainability plans. Check out these and other APA’s food system publications that can help you and your community in taking steps to building a healthy, equitable food system.