Tag Archives: USDA

Growing Food Connections Launches Website to Train Communities across the U.S. in Food Systems Planning

GFC Logo

Communities looking to broaden access to healthy food and sustain local farms and food production have a new resource – growingfoodconnections.org – a repository of information on food systems planning.

The site is run by Growing Food Connections, an initiative to strengthen community food systems nationwide, and will grow to include such resources as a Community Guide to Planning for Food and Agriculture. Led by the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning in partnership with Cultivating Healthy Places, Ohio State University and American Farmland Trust, Growing Food Connections will target 10 “Communities of Opportunity” – communities poised to tackle their food access challenges and agricultural viability – with an intensive program of education, training, technical assistance and extension activities.

The five-year, $3.96 million initiative is funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The American Planning Association is a key project partner along with a National Advisory Committee of esteemed leaders in agriculture, food systems and public health.

“Communities increasingly are looking for ways to connect their populations – particularly the under-served – with healthy, affordable and culturally acceptable food while fostering a viable agricultural sector,” said Samina Raja, PhD, UB associate professor of urban and regional planning, director of the Food Lab and a principal investigator for Growing Food Connections.

The new website, along with the initiative’s direct extension activities in these communities, led by the American Farmland Trust, will ensure planning officials have the tools they need to develop, implement and maintain policy solutions to sustain agriculture and strengthen their food systems.

“This effort is unique,” suggests Julia Freedgood, assistant vice president of programs at American Farmland Trust, “because it builds capacity of local governments to support family farmers and ranchers as a path toward community food security.”

Kimberley Hodgson, planner and principal of Cultivating Healthy Places, notes that “the website will provide local government officials with a range of tools to assist them in developing their own food system plans and policies.”

A social networking forum and webinars will support information sharing and peer-to-peer dialogue across participating communities. Forthcoming is a comprehensive database of local and regional public policies, from food production ordinances to food system plans and local procurement policies, to facilitate policy change.

With information on continuing education, doctoral programs in food systems planning and policy at Ohio State University and University at Buffalo and student internship opportunities, the website also supports Growing Food Connections’ goal to develop an educational framework for the next generation of food systems planners.

For more information, visit: growingfoodconnections.org.

USDA Invests in Research to End Hunger and Address Food Security Challenges


On February 27, 2013, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, officially announced more than $75 million in grants for research, education and extension activities to ensure greater food security in the United States and around the world. The awards were made to teams at 21 U.S. universities to conduct research that will find solutions to increasing food availability and decreasing the number of food insecure individuals.

These awards were made through the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 2012 Agriculture and Food Research Initiative’s (AFRI) Food Security program. The program supports research that will keep American agriculture competitive while helping to end world hunger, and focuses on achieving the long-term outcomes of increasing domestic and international food availability and food accessibility.

The University at Buffalo (UB) is one of the U.S. universities that received this prestigious grant. The focus of the UB funded initiative (formally titled “Building Local Government Capacity to Alleviate Food Deserts”) is to build the capacity of local governments to reconnect farmers with underserved consumers.

Co-investigators in this UB initiative include Samina Raja, PhD (the project lead, University at Buffalo), Jill Clark, PhD (Ohio State University), Julia Freedgood (American Farmland Trust), and Kimberley Hodgson, MURP, MS, AICP, RD (Cultivating Healthy Places). Key partners include the Planning and Community Health Research Center at the American Planning Association and individuals from other national non-profit organizations.

For the full USDA announcement, visit http://www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2013news/02271_food_security.html.

Cultivating Healthy Places Named Co-Investigator of a $3.96 Million USDA Grant to Promote Food Security

Cultivating Healthy Places’ founder and principal consultant, Kimberley Hodgson, received a 5-year contract as co-investigator for a $3.96 million grant awarded to the University at Buffalo from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Systems Program, a program of the United States Department of Agriculture.

The project, “Building Local Government Capacity to Alleviate Food Deserts”, will improve the ability of urban and rural communities to create, implement, and sustain policies that simultaneously enhance food security and foster a healthy local agricultural sector. This project is about making the food system work for vulnerable consumers and farmers who are not well served by our contemporary food system – consumers with limited access to nutritious foods, and small, mid-sized and limited resources farmers.

Hodgson’s co-investigators in this endeavor are Samina Raja, PhD (the project lead, University at Buffalo), Julia Freedgood (American Farmland Trust), and Jill Clark, PhD (Ohio State University). Key partners include the American Planning Association and individuals from other national non-profit organizations.

The project will begin with a national survey to identify and evaluate the effectiveness of innovative food systems policies in reducing food deserts and strengthening the local agricultural sector. Drawing on the successes and failures of these policies, the team will develop policy tools and provide technical assistance to 20 vulnerable urban and rural communities in the United States to build the capacity of their local government staff, extension educators, consumers, and farmers to develop and implement more effective food system policies.

In order to nurture the next generation of food systems policy thinkers and professionals, the team will prepare and disseminate multi-disciplinary curriculum materials on food systems policy for adoption in universities across the United States. The team will also launch a doctoral fellowship in food systems planning – the first in the United States.

Earlier this year, Hodgson founded Cultivating Healthy Places, an international consulting business that specializes in social equity, community health, and resilient food systems planning. As a certified planner and registered dietitian, Hodgson conducts policy-relevant research and provides technical assistance to private, public, and non-profit organizations in the United States and Canada on the design and development of healthy, sustainable places.

This project will build on Hodgson’s wealth of professional and educational experience related to food systems policy. Hodgson recently co-authored the American Planning Association’s seminal publication on urban agriculture, “Urban Agriculture: Growing Healthy Sustainable Places” (January 2011), and the “Principles of a Healthy, Sustainable Food System“. Hodgson also completed a 3-year American Planning Association research project that was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to evaluate how local comprehensive and sustainability plans address and work to improve food access equity.

Currently, Hodgson is providing guidance to the City of Lawrence and Douglas County, Kansas and the City of Vancouver, British Columbia on the development and implementation of local level policies to support and enhance the local food system; co-developing a community agriculture plan for an area in Delta, British Columbia; and conducting research on the management and productive reuse of vacant properties for the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech.

Hodgson is a member of the American Planning Association, Canadian Institute of Planners, and the Vancouver Food Policy Council.