Before we can even argue that our food system is broken; before we can head down that polemic about how the way we produce, distribute and consume food is deconstructing because the way we’ve designed it to do so has done so too well; before we can then talk about the reconstruction of a food movement rising from those left out, those wanting more for themselves, families, communities and earth; we need to understand the system. What is a food system to you? How do you relate to it? What do you see wrong and right about it?
It’s a complex web that involves those that grow the food, those that own the land, the policy makers that zone for said land, the aggregators and buyers of the food, the processors and distributors that get it to market and cafes, the farmers’ markets that small farmers rely on, the public space that brings in the customers, the guy grilling the burgers, the regulators of said burger and cow, the public health agency concerned about the related dietary illness cause by the way we’ve weaved this web, and the economic development group that works to stimulate the urban and rural community that feeds and eats. This, but also so much more, is the beginning of a food system. Don’t get bogged down. It’s important to understand the interconnectedness and to stay creative, because even those that you may initially think aren’t involved in the food system just might be.
Planners are very good at taking complex problems and linking them, much like Lincoln Blocks. Planners are typically trained to look at these problems, both physical, political, social and cultural, as well as historical, and at many different scales. Since the food system is very involved, as the list above touches on, it’s integral to address the web on a local, regional, state and national level. This is what a food system planner does, It’s an intricate game of connect the dots. Understand your system, build the relationships, layout the ground rules, educate, share, delve deep, and repeat.
Now, what is your food system? And, how can we all help plan for it?