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 (http://thecolorofood.com/projects/) 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

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.

North American Map of Food Policy Councils

The Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins University recently released an interactive map of food policy councils across the United States and Canada. For more information, click here or on the map below.


Healthy Food Access Mapping Tool



Healthy Food Access Portal released a new mapping tool that can help individuals and organizations better understand the communities in which they are working to improve access to healthy food. The tool, called Research Your Community, is powered by PolicyMap and allows users to access 60 data indicators. Topics include:

  • Demographics, including income and SNAP participation;
  • The food environment, including locations of supermarkets and farmers markets;
  • Health indicators, such as fruit and vegetable consumption; and
  • Eligibility data for federal funding programs, such as the New Markets Tax Credit program.

For more information, click here.

New Food Policy Database


Growing Food Connections, a federally-funded research initiative to strengthen community food systems nationwide, recently released a database with over 100 newly adopted local government policies aimed to strengthen food systems. The Growing Food Connections Policy Database, hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, will assist local governments as they work to broaden access to healthy food and help sustain local farms and food producers.

For more information see the press release.