The overarching goal of this partnership is to enhance community food security while ensuring sustainable and economically viable agriculture and food production. This requires building the capacity of local governments to remove public policy barriers and deploy innovative public policy tools. 

Background and Objectives

About-Capacity About-Capacity

About Capacities

Building the capacity of local governments to improve community food systems to benefit small and mid-sized farmers and underserved community residents.

Nearly 50 million Americans are considered food insecure according to the United States Department of Agriculture. While many Americans are struggling to gain access to healthful, affordable and culturally acceptable foods, many farmers and ranchers are struggling to remain viable.  With this project, we hope to transform these challenges into opportunities for food producers and communities. We intend to identify innovations in local and regional public policy that strengthen community food systems in order to better support underserved residents and farmers, especially small and mid-sized farmers. The project will build the capacity of local governments and their partners to create, implement and sustain food system plans and policies that simultaneously promote access to healthy, affordable and culturally acceptable food and foster a viable agricultural sector in their communities.


Research, Education and Planning & Policy in Communities

Growing Food Connections will coordinate and integrate ResearchEducation and Planning & Policy activities to build a stronger community food system from the ground up.

pdfGrowing Food Connections Overview

Embedded in this integrated approach is the process of extension. Cooperative Extension will help guide all three components of this project and provide a vehicle for collaboration on outreach efforts. National Web Dialogues and the Extension Community of Practice will serve as tools to facilitate collaboration and feedback.

Activities of Growing Food Connections



100_researchLocal governments can strengthen food systems by developing and implementing food systems plans and related public policies to support regional agriculture, community residents and the markets, delivery systems and infrastructure needed to connect them. Community food systems planning focuses on improving access to healthy food for all residents, especially those that are underserved by the global food system. Working in all regions of the US, and across urban and rural places, the Growing Food Connections partnership will build the capacity of local governments to deploy these public policy tools.


100_education Education

To prepare the next generation of leaders in food systems planning, Growing Food Connections will gather, develop and distribute curricular materials on food systems planning to academic and professional partners. The project will also support graduate student education and research in food systems at the master’s and doctoral levels.


100_practicePlanning & Policy

To build the capacity of Communities of Opportunity to promote food access and economically viable agriculture and food production, Growing Food Connections will:

  • Provide local government officials and other key stakeholders with knowledge and related resources to better plan for food and agriculture.
  • Assist Communities of Opportunity in the creation of partnerships and a policy framework needed to sustain healthy food and agriculture system efforts over time.
  • Foster the development and financing of infrastructure necessary to add value to agricultural production and ensure access to healthy food.
  • Educate Communities of Opportunity on how to leverage public and private resources to create healthy, sustainable community-based food systems.

A Diverse Team to Grow Food Connections

6 Core GroupsThe Partners and Team behind the Growing Food Connections project include 6 Core Groups:

  • Investigators
  • National Advisory Committee Members
  • Food System Experts
  • Planning Professionals
  • Representatives of Communities of Innovation
  • Representatives of Communities of Opportunity