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.

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

Postdoctoral Position in Global Health and Food Equity – Available Immediately

(reposted from http://growingfoodconnections.org/news-item/postdoctoral-position-in-global-health-and-food-equity-available-immediately/)

The University at Buffalo invites outstanding candidates to apply for a postdoctoral position in food equity to join the university-wide Community on Global Health Equity

About the position

Applications are invited for an outstanding postdoctoral scholar to join a university-wide interdisciplinary research initiative on Food Equity and Global Health. Joining an interdisciplinary team of faculty, post-docs, graduate students, and research staff across multiple schools, including the Schools of Public Health and Health Professions, the School of Architecture and Planning, and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the selected postdoctoral scholar will focus her/his research on alleviating food and nutritional inequities by harnessing the power of non-health disciplines including architecture, applied economics, engineering, international development, social work, urban, regional and rural planning and policy, and related disciplines. The candidate will join the Food Equity project, and develop a research portfolio working under the guidance of faculty mentors in the School of Architecture and Planning, School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the School of Public Health and health Professions.

Eligibility requirements

Candidate must hold a doctorate in the following or related fields: urban and regional planning, international development, food systems, engineering, and/or public policy.  An eligible candidate’s dissertation and research interests should be related to advancing food equity and public health in a global setting, preferably in low-resource communities.

Skills and experience

Experience in conducting interdisciplinary research on food systems, food equity, and nutrition-related issues are essential. Supervision of graduate student research will be helpful. Candidates with quantitative or qualitative methodological strengths are welcome to apply. Familiarity with use of spatial analysis using Geographic Information Systems is welcome. Applicants from engineering disciplines will need to demonstrate capability in modeling complex systems; dealing with large quantity of data are a plus.


Selected candidate will conduct independent research with guidance from Drs. Samina Raja, Li Lin, Korydon Smith, and Pavani Ram. Candidates are encouraged to identify a principal mentor among this faculty group. Candidate will also collaborate closely with faculty aligned with the Food Equity Project within the Community of Global Health Equity. The department home for this position will be Urban and Regional Planning.
The candidate will be expected to contribute intellectually to the research portfolio of the Food Equity Project of the UB CGHE through research-related activities, including generating original scholarship and contributing to ongoing research through the UB CGHE.

About the UB Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity

The grand challenge of global health inequity is one of the defining issues of the 21st century, attracting unprecedented levels of interest and the attention of thinkers who are concerned about the underlying social, economic, political, and environmental factors of this challenge, in addition to the biomedical manifestations. The UB Community for Global Health Equity (CGHE) was established in July 2015 to bring the strength of UB faculty across many disciplines to bear on this most vexing of world problems. The UB CGHE advances global health equity by harnessing the power of interdisciplinary scholarship and action spanning architecture, planning, engineering, social sciences, and supportive disciplines (APEX disciplines). Read more about UB CGHE here: https://www.buffalo.edu/globalhealthequity.html

The selected postdoctoral scholar will be from an APEX discipline, and will join a team of faculty and researchers across multiple disciplines including public health and APEX disciplines.

The WHO defines health inequity as “unjust differences in health between persons of different social groups.”  These differences between one population (and group) and another are due, in part, to one or more of the following systemic barriers:

  1. gaps in foundational science (e.g., lack of drug discovery to treat neglected tropical diseases)
  2. socio-cultural barriers or phenomena (e.g., gender gap in provision and utilization of healthcare)
  3. ineffectual and/or unjust public policies (e.g., land-use policies that (inadvertently) limit people’s access to nutritious foods)
  4. ineffective practices or unequal access to best practices (e.g., lack of safe construction practices in hard-to-reach rural areas)

Low resources and/or low capacity for change at global, social, and/or institutional levels exacerbate these systemic barriers. This Community’s aim is to “influence the influencers,” the leaders, organizations, and policy makers that can reduce or eliminate barriers to improved global health and well-being for all in settings around the world:

  1. research bodies (e.g., universities or funding agencies)
  2. facilitative/dissemination organizations, including international organizations (e.g., state agency providing assistance to refugees or international organization promoting child health)
  3. policy makers and implementers (e.g., ministries of rural development)
  4. professional/practitioner organizations (e.g., urban planning organizations or organizations providing healthcare)

Application review, deadlines, and remuneration

Applications are being accepted on a rolling basis. The position is for two years. Salary and benefits are competitive and commensurate with experience. The University at Buffalo is an equal opportunity employer.

Apply online via the UB Jobs interface: https://www.ubjobs.buffalo.edu/applicants/Central?quickFind=59675

About the University at Buffalo

The University at Buffalo is a premier, research-intensive public university dedicated to academic excellence. It is the flagship and the largest and most comprehensive campus in the 64-campus State University of New York System. With 27,000 students, the University at Buffalo is a Carnegie Class I research university and a member of the Association of American Universities (AAU). The university offers 83 Ph.D. and 190 master’s degree programs, and has outstanding supercomputing, library, and research facilities, including numerous interdisciplinary centers and institutes for faculty collaboration. The University at Buffalo has three campuses: UB South campus, UB Downtown campus, and UB North Campus.

The post-doctoral position will be housed in the Community of Excellence in Global Health Equity located in historic Hayes Hall on UB’s South Campus.

The UB South Campus, home to the School of Public Health and Health Professions and the School of Architecture and Planning, is located in the University Heights neighborhood with coffee shops, eateries, bookstores, and a full array of commercial outlets and services. The campus is highly accessible, situated on a subway and other transit lines. Housing opportunities are abundant and affordable. With a combined population of 9.7 million, the binational Niagara region of Western New York and Southern Ontario offers a high quality of life and an exceptional setting for engaging planning issues. The region spans an international border, and includes large cities, varied suburbs, dramatic landscapes, and quiet villages. For additional information about the University at Buffalo and the community, see http://www.buffalo.edu/community.

Contact information

Dr. Samina Raja, Associate Professor and Community for Global Health Equity faculty sraja@buffalo.edu