Help FIG get the final 50 signatures to become an APA Division!

Thanks for joining us in San Francisco for APA’s national planning conference. It was great to catch up with old friends and meet new faces working to advance food systems planning.

We’re thrilled we were able to collect over 100 signatures for our petition to become an official division of the American Planning Association. Food is a sustaining and enduring necessity. Yet among the basic essentials for life — air, water, shelter, and food — only food has been absent as a focus of serious professional planning.

We need only 50 more signatures to complete our application, so please add your name here: and help make food systems planning recognized as a core area of the planning profession!

And please pass the link on to your friends and colleagues and help us gather the last 50 signatures.

Thanks for your support!

APA-FIG Leadership Committee

We hope to see you at the National Planning Conference!


Heading to the National Planning Conference in a few weeks? APA-FIG will be co-hosting a reception with the Healthy Communities Collaborative. Come and network with other planners and learn about FIG’s efforts to become an official APA Division (please sign our petition). Interested in learning more about food systems planning? Check out all of the food focused sessions.

Farm Bill Listening Session – March 14

USDA Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley today announced that on Thursday, March 14, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. EDT, USDA Rural Development will conduct a listening session webinar to listen to questions and comments from the partners, stakeholders and customers who will be affected by the implementation of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Topics will include new tools in the 2018 Farm Bill to increase access to rural broadband e-Connectivity, expanding credit to rural communities, and other key provisions relating to USDA Rural Development programs.

Registration is required to participate. A registration link can be found at The deadline for registration is 3 p.m. EDT Wednesday, March 13.

Interested parties unable to participate in the listening session may submit comments on the 2018 Farm Bill to USDA Rural Development through March 30, 2019, via email to

Nominate a Regional Plan that Addresses Food Systems by March 15

gfcCalling all food system planners, policy makers, scholars, and practitioners!

Is your community engaging in regional-level planning that impacts food systems in the United States?  If so, your policy could be featured in the Growing Food Connections policy database!

The Local and Regional Government Policy Database, which is maintained by the Growing Food Connections team, is a searchable collection of about 200 local government policies that impact community food systems. This database provides policymakers, government staff, and community advocates interested in food policy with concrete examples of adopted/implemented local and regional public policies that address a range of food systems issues: rural and urban food production, farmland protection, transfer of development rights, food aggregation and distribution infrastructure, food policy councils, healthy food access, and more. Local and regional governments interested in developing or implementing food systems policies turn to this database as an important resource.

This month (March) Growing Food Connections scanning the country to identify regional plans that impact food systems. These plans can be regional-scale transportation plans, regional-scale sustainability plans, or really, any sort of regional plans that aim to strengthen a region’s food system.

Do you know of a regional plan that should be showcased? Nominations are being accepted until March 15, 2019. We are especially interested in regional plans within the United States, published between 2012 and 2018.  A select number of regional plans will be showcased as a feature story on the Growing Food Connections website (and also drawn to the attention of researchers, practitioners, and students).

Nominating your regional plan is easy! Send a pdf copy or weblink to by Friday, March 15, 2019. Sooner is better!

Growing Food Connections is a federally-seeded project led by Dr. Samina Raja at the UB Food Lab, in partnership with Cultivating Healthy Places, Ohio State University, American Farmland Trust, and the American Planning Association. GFC is an action-research project integrates research, education, and planning and policy to strengthen community food systems. The Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, a research group led by Dr. Samina Raja, housed in UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, is dedicated to research that critically examines the role of local government policy in facilitating equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities.  The Food Lab’s research unfolds in collaboration with other research groups within and outside UB, as well as in partnership with community and planning organizations and local governments in the United States and globally.

New Guide on Leveraging Underutilized Kitchens to Support Entrepreneurs


Greater awareness of the challenges food entrepreneurs and producers face in finding affordable commercial kitchen space has many communities studying ways to expand kitchen access. Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators is a new resource that explains how to leverage underutilized kitchens in community buildings to help meet this need.

Communities that lack the entrepreneurial demand or capital funding for a new shared kitchen or business incubator often turn to existing kitchens in community buildings as an alternative. Renting out kitchens in places of worship, community halls, event centers, and educational buildings to entrepreneurs can help support local food economies and generate income for community-serving buildings and programs.

Renting kitchens designed for other purposes and housed in buildings with other primary uses involves special management and regulatory considerations. Among these are the suitability of the kitchen, regulatory requirements, compatibility between uses, and the capacity of the organization to manage rentals. Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators tackles these concerns and offers guidance for facilities and communities weighing this option. It provides planners and other stakeholders with an overview of the benefits and limitations of utilizing existing kitchens and highlights Kitchen Connect programs and other strategies for expanding kitchen access. The guide also offers practical advice for facilities interested in launching a kitchen rental program, including key steps to take and descriptions of various management approaches.

Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs is a free downloadable pdf published by Purdue University Extension in collaboration with Fruition Planning & Management thanks to funding from USDA North Central SARE.

PS. If you haven’t yet, please sign our petition for APA Division status. It will only take  a minute! Sign here and get us closer to our goal of 300 signatures!

Help APA-FIG become an APA Division!

APA-FIG is still actively pursuing Division status with APA. Many of you may have already signed our division petition, but unfortunately, the tracking sheet did not accurately capture the signatures in support. Please revisit our petition, add your name, and help us get the 300 pledges we need to get food systems planning a seat at the table.

Thanks and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2019!

The APA-FIG Leadership Committee

Faces of Food Systems Planning: Elliott Royal

Name: Elliott Royal


Current Position: Food Access Coordinator, Mecklenburg County Public Health

Elliott Royal is one of the premier resources in Charlotte for food system and advocacy work.  She has supported and worked with farmers’ markets, school gardens and convenience store revitalization through a healthy corner store initiative. Her previous experience as Mecklenburg County Public Health’s Food Access Coordinator provided a great segue into her current work with the City of Charlotte as a Community Service Area Liaison.

She has participated in two Charlotte-area food system reports, the 2015 “State of the Plate” and the 2018 “Unlocking the Potential of Charlotte’s Farmers’ Markets and Food System.” Elliott serves as a board member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Food Policy Council and Carolina Farm Trust.

This interview was conducted when Elliott was the Food Access Coordinator for Mecklenburg County Public Health. The interview was conducted by Ben Kerrick APA-FIG leadership committee member and Senior Consultant at KK&P. Ben and Elliott collaborated when Elliott was on the steering committee for the farmers’ market and food system study that KK&P completed.


What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work, and where does that fit in with the rest of the work that you do? I focus on three food access areas: Farmers’ markets, school gardens, and healthy corner stores.

My work on farmers’ markets is multifaceted. Besides operating the market run by Mecklenburg County Public Health, I also assist other market managers around our region. I explain how SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) works and why it’s beneficial. I help designate farmers to markets, and I help support markets where market manager turnover is high.

For my work with school gardens, I work closely with an organization called Out Teach, which used to be called Real School Gardens.  They are based in Washington, D.C., with school gardens in the Carolinas and Texas. They develop garden curriculum. We have 18 local schools that have incorporated their curriculum into their classroom programs, including math, science, and art.

My work on healthy corner stores came out of the State of the Plate report [food insecurity study conducted by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Food Policy Council], which I worked on before starting this job. The results of that study confirmed that corner stores would be a beneficial way to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent diet-related illness. I work with 13 independent corner stores to help them incorporate healthier items into their stores. Sometimes that means fruits and vegetables, sometimes it means less processed food. It’s a heart-warming project, more than you would assume. You have to work with the owner and the community – if the community is not interested in the change, it’s not going to be successful.

What do you enjoy about your work? People! I enjoy people. I didn’t realize how much I enjoy working with people until I got out in front of them. I get my success from smiles. Maybe that’s at a farmers’ market, where people are excited they get to purchase fresh produce in their neighborhood. Or going to a classroom and talking to 2nd graders about how to cook and eat vegetables, and they tell me I cook better than they eat at home, or ask if I can come back every day. I feel good about those smiles. Or at corner stores, where people notice this cut watermelon, and now they have the means of accessibility to get it regularly.

Similarly, what do you find challenging about your work? People. (laughs) The politics is challenging. Being a public servant, we’re not supposed to be involved in politics, but it comes in in different phases of our work. Like past disagreements between non-profits, or the idea that I wish I could create the policies to help everyone, but there are zoning considerations or other regulations you have to follow. I wish we could go faster. But faster is not always better. I could go alone very fast, but we can go further together.

Do you consider yourself a food systems planner? Why or why not? No, I do not consider myself a planner. I convene planners. I’m a source of knowledge for planners, so I think I’m part of their support system. Planners come to me and I can help them find the resources, give constructive feedback, etc. I do that a lot with food system partners. I consider that a triumph – whether it’s a college student wanting to learn more about food access or a community member wanting to make a difference in their neighborhood or a non-profit having me as a member of their board. I’m not a planner, I’m an ally.

My education background is in exercise science and health education and promotion, not necessarily public health – my degrees provided interaction with people, not just statistics and books. I learned about healthy behavior change. Now I’m in an MBA Program. People ask me why I’m not studying public administration, but business practices are important in every field. There’s a component of supply and demand in everything we do. Food deserts exist because there aren’t business opportunities. I can be a better gladiator if I know more business lingo. So that when I’m talking to grocers or food businesses, they’re not intimidated by public health.

What is the biggest food systems planning-related hurdle your community/organization faced in recent years and how was it dealt with? In Charlotte I think it has a lot to do with transplants. A lot of people are moving here, just like any other up and coming city. Charlotte is going to turn into a metropolis. I think the society around here is changing to adapt to millennials and people moving here rather than making changes for the people that are already here. It relates to neighborhoods that have historically gone without – without medicine, without food, without good housing, etc. The people who needed it won’t be here by the time those resources are here. One example is grocery stores. The Charlotte Observer recently ran an article about how important median income is to grocery store chains, and because certain neighborhoods don’t have high enough median incomes, they don’t get to have those kinds of establishments. It’s all about money moving in, moving out, and moving to different areas of the city.

How has your perception of food systems planning changed since you first entered the planning field? I was very naïve. I was very naïve about what I was signing up for. I had just left a college campus working in wellness. I thought college kids were difficult. Then I moved to the County and started working with residents and I think kids were easier (laughs). I thought the work was going to be bells and whistles, but I realized there’s an important historical past around food. I always say this – food should be something that equalizes us as people – and it doesn’t. Water, air – food should be in that equation. Charlotte has the potential – coop grocery stores, outdoor learning, urban farms – but it all comes down to funding. This is the second largest banking city in the nation and I hope it puts more money down in its backyard to support those projects.

Who has had the most influence on you as a planner? As a food systems planner? I had the privilege to go to a conference organized by the Fair Food Network, based out of Flint, MI. They have a winter meetup for Double Up Bucks programs, which match SNAP/EBT dollars to bring more healthy options into SNAP households. The first time I went to this meeting, our farmers’ market Double Up program hadn’t been in place yet, and I felt like I was in a room full of mentors and supporters. Everyone was just so helpful. They motivated me to keep doing the good work. They told me that a market isn’t sustainable until you’ve reached the five-year mark, so don’t give up. They’ve kept me motivated through the work that they’ve done. Seeing their success and being able to talk to them is really helpful.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? One thing that often comes up is the relationship between you and the community. I wish I’d learned more about that relationship – between you and stakeholders. That’s so important. You can have the same idea as someone, but it’s all about execution and how you go about it. I see organizations with the same objectives, but they don’t work together. Stakeholder relationships – how to convene those people and how to communicate with them, that’s very important.

Any concluding thoughts? Going into this job, I was the first person to hold this title. I made it the work I thought needed to be done. At first I was nervous about that – what is success? – but it’s perfectly fine to determine your own success in food system work. Whether it’s large or small, celebrate every win. Whether it’s a new vegetable in a school cafeteria, or land given to you for a community garden, or a farmers’ market being producer-only – those are all little wins and support the implementation of important policy change.