Research activities assess how local governments are using policy and planning tools to foster connections between farmers and underserved consumers, and how academic institutions are educating the next generation of food systems planners.
Approach and Activities
Growing Food Connections is conducting exploratory research in 20 communities that have been identified as leaders in food system planning and policy. We have gathered information about promising approaches and public policies that both improve food security in underserved communities and support the economic viability of food production. The team selected four outstanding communities for in-depth case study research to document best practices and develop models local governments can use to improve community food production and community food security through public policy.
Working with the American Planning Association (APA), the Growing Food Connections team is determining the extent to which professional planners in the United States are engaged in developing and implementing food systems issues. A national survey of APA members identifed the degree to which they are engaged in developing and implementing partnerships, policies and associated plans that address food access and agricultural viability.
A central element of this research is the identification and removal of policy barriers in the most vulnerable communities in the United States, or Communities of Opportunity. Using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology, Growing Food Connections identified and ranked all urban and rural counties with the greatest proportion of food insecure people and where farmers are producing food but are the least connected to the local market. Using these and other indicators (e.g. total population size), Growing Food Connections identified 100 sites as Communities of Opportunity in all four census regions. In consultation with the National Advisory Committee, GFC selected 8 sites for in-depth case study research into policy barriers faced by underserved residents and farmers. This research informs actions aimed at building the government’s capacity to address food systems issues.
Extension and outreach is a vital component of Growing Food Connections because it ensures that the knowledge and information we generate will reach a broad audience. Web dialogues are being conducted with Extension professionals.
Growing Food Connections conducts research on the barriers and opportunities for promoting food systems planning through graduate-level education. Through a survey of planning educators, GFC is generating knowledge about the degree to which professional planning programs train future planners in the area of food systems planning and policy.