Municipalities and counties got a big boost yesterday, in Lexington, KY at the American Farmland Trust National Conference, with the unveiling of a searchable database with more than 100 newly adopted innovative, local government food system policies that can be shared and adapted across the country. 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.
Growing Food Connections, a federally-funded research initiative to strengthen community food systems nationwide, has compiled over 100 policies governing issues as diverse as public investment in food systems, farmland protection, local food procurement and food policy council resolutions.
The content development for the database was led by Kimberley Hodgson, Principal, Cultivating Healthy Places, in partnership with the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo, American Planning Association, American Farmland Trust and Ohio State University.
Growing Food Connections is a five-year, $3.96 million research initiative funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Local governments constantly search for ways to strengthen the local food economy and provide better access to healthy, local foods through public policy,” said Kimberley Hodgson, planner and co-investigator for Growing Food Connections. “This database will serve as an important tool to help local governments enact the kind of policies that will positively impact their local food systems.”
The database is a comprehensive catalog of enacted food policy. By drawing upon partner resources and networks, the database provides a vast resource of policies that have been implemented and are currently being used by communities. Furthermore, it provides inspiration for communities looking to start building their own food policy. The policies span different geographic regions, sizes of government, rural and urban areas, policy topics and policy types. This database is a useful resource particularly for government officials, planning and public health professionals, academics, and students.
“Until about a decade ago, many of these public policies did not exist,” said Samina Raja, PhD, Associate Professor at the University at Buffalo and Principal Investigator of Growing Food Connections. “The adoption of these policies signals that local governments in the United States are finally beginning to recognize the need to invest in food systems just as much as other public infrastructure such as housing and transportation,” she said. The policy database will grow over the course of the project and is organized to promote the sharing and adaptation of policies across communities.
In addition to the local government policy database, Growing Food Connections supports information-sharing and community education through a Food Systems Reader and growing list of publications via its website. The program is also developing an intensive program of research, education, technical assistance and extension activities for 10 Communities of Opportunity, or regions poised to tackle their food access challenges and agricultural viability, across the U.S.