Faces of Food Systems Planning: Sharon Lerman

20130620_OSE_Lerman_web 2

Sharon Lerman is the Food Policy Advisor for the City of Seattle. Based out of the City’s Office of Sustainability and Environment, Sharon provides policy direction and strategic advice to increase options for access to healthy and affordable food for Seattle’s residents. Sharon was interviewed on July 7, 2016 by Andrea Petzel.

What do you enjoy about your work? Food systems planning is still a young field, and there is so much to learn from other disciplines about how we approach our work. I enjoy working with smart people across disciplines and learning from the decades of experience in their fields. There are so many translatable lessons from the history of housing policy, community development, economic development, land use planning, and others. I also love working for local government – knowing that the reason I go to work every day to make Seattle a better place for people who live here.

What do you find challenging about your work? Food systems planning is complex, and often there isn’t a single solution to all the challenges we’re wrestling with. It’s sometimes difficult to set one priority aside to really focus on another, but I believe we sometimes need to do that. Ultimately, it’s a suite of activities, policies, and initiatives that are needed to build the just and sustainable food system that we’re working towards.

Where does addressing food systems issues fit in for your work with the City of Seattle?  All of my work is about food systems, and I get to address it from many angles. Sometimes I’m focusing more on human services aspects, sometimes on supporting small businesses, and other times on farmland preservation. I work with many folks in city government, and some of our best food systems champions are in positions that aren’t titled “food” people, but they bring a food lens to their work and are able to help make sure food is considered across the work of city departments.

 What areas of the food system do you focus on in your work? My work as food policy advisor is greatly informed, and influenced by Seattle’s Race and Social Justice Initiative. This has led to a strong focus on food access and affordability, which were top concerns raised by the community during the development of Seattle’s Food Action Plan. Seattle is becoming increasingly unaffordable for low-income people and other vulnerable populations, healthy food is one of the first things to go when people struggle financially. So while my work also includes supporting our local food economy, food waste prevention, and local food production, healthy food affordability has been a prominent focus.

How did you become a food systems planner? My interest in food policy started as an undergraduate with an interest in hunger in the developing world. Understanding the role that political, distribution, economic, and power systems played in solving – and also creating – hunger, I wanted to understand how these same systems worked locally. I worked for community-based organizations for a number of years, and eventually pursued a joint master’s degree in City and Regional Planning and Public Health at the University of California Berkley, focusing on health equity.

What do you wish you would have known before going to planning school? During planning school, I pursued internships and hands-on projects with many different organizations. I found it impactful to apply the concepts that I was learning on the ground, and also to get a feel for different types of agencies and organizations. I’d encourage students to seek out different types of stakeholders to work with. Understanding their priorities and what drives them will also help you to better identify your own priorities and what really drives you, as you embark on your career.

Advertisements

APA Mentor Match Program Needs Food Systems Planners

APA is looking for food systems planners that will be attending the APA National Planning Conference in Seattle for their Mentor Match Program. There are several mentees interested in food systems planning, and currently no mentors to match them with.

Are you a seasoned professional willing to provide career advice to the next generation of planners? Are you a veteran of National Planning Conferences willing to share your expertise and tips to newbies?

If so, then register to be matched with mentees at the 2015 National Planning Conference. The deadline has been extended through Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

Matches will be assigned based on areas of expertise and geography as much as possible. Mentors and mentees are expected to meet at least once during the conference, but further interaction is enencouraged.

Food Systems Planning Events, Sessions & Workshops at the APA 2015 National Planning Conference

APA2015

The APA-FIG Communications & Outreach Working Group compiled a list of all food systems planning related events, sessions & workshops at the upcoming APA National Planning Conference in Seattle, WA this April 18-21, 2015 at the Washington State Convention Center. This list includes 2 APA-FIG events: the annual business meeting and the annual social networking event.

FIG EVENTS

APA-Food Systems Planning Interest Group Social Networking Event
7 p.m. – 9 p.m. – Sunday, April 19, 2015
Do you study or work on food systems issues? Please join others who care about food systems planning for a fun, informal networking event at Local 360, Chef’s Dining Room | 2234 1st Ave, Seattle, WA.  Local 360 is located in Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood, just a short walking distance from the conference center. The restaurant emphasizes local sourcing, with the majority of their ingredients falling within a 360 mile radius of Seattle. Space is limited, so reserve your ticket in advance ($10). Appetizers provided, cash bar. This event is sponsored by Growing Food Connections, the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo, and the APA-FIG Leadership Committee. (Note: You do NOT have to be registered for the APA National Planning Conference to attend the FIG social networking event. We welcome planners and allied professionals in the region to join us (there will be the option to pay at the door).)

Food Systems Planning Interest Group Business Meeting
4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Monday, April 20, 2015
Help shape the future of food and agriculture. Join colleagues for an informal meeting of planners interested in food systems planning. The meeting will kick-off the 2015​ ​APA-FIG Action Plan and offer an update of past work and an​ ​opportunity to discuss ideas about the direction and future of the food systems​ ​planning field.

SESSIONS

The Now and Future of Agriculture
1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – Saturday, April 18
CM | 1.25, Activity Code: S431
A growing number of regions and communities are finding ways to reap the benefits of farmland. This session will focus on market-based and land-use programs and tools that planners, local governments and nonprofits have used to protect agricultural land in the Puget Sound region.
Speakers: Christy Carr

Urban Agriculture and the Law
1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. – Sunday, April 19
CM | 1.25, Activity Code: S483
Bettman Symposium Sessions Planning and Law Division Location: WSCC – 6E
Urban agriculture has been sprouting up in municipalities across the country. Join a discussion of policy and planning tools for effectively permitting urban agriculture. The session will cover common legal obstacles and analyze lessons from Seattle, Portland, Chicago, and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Speakers: Sorell Negro | David Silverman | Nicole Civita | Carrie Richter

Food System Planning in Cascadia
5:30 p.m. – 6:45 p.m. – Sunday, April 19
CM | 1.25, Activity Code: S518
Municipal food-system planners from the Cascadian cities of Seattle, Vancouver (British Columbia), and Portland discuss the role city government plays in local food systems. Explore policy making, planning, and programming, as well as lessons from the field.
Speakers: Kara Martin, AICP | Sharon Lerman | Wendy Mendes | Steve Cohen

Improving Food Access and Revitalizing Communities
11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – Tuesday, April 21
CM | 1.25, Activity Code: S613
There is a growing movement to improve access, awareness, availability, and affordability of quality, healthy food for residents, particularly in underserved areas. See how sustainable community food systems are making an impact in revitalizing communities.
Speakers: Brian Hurd | Aaron Young

WORKSHOPS & DEEP DIVES

Advancing Food Systems Planning and Policy
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. – Saturday, April 18
CM | 8.0, Activity Code: W400
This interactive day-long workshop will present planning and policy techniques needed to build a community and regional food system. During the morning, attendees will focus on the tools and mechanisms for implementing a food systems plan. The afternoon mobile workshop will explore how food systems concepts have been applied in a series of settings in the Seattle area. Lunch included.

MOBILE WORKSHOPS

Farm-to-Kitchen Sustainable Agricultural Policies
10:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. – Sunday, April 19
CM | 3.75, Activity Code: W006
King and Snohomish counties have implemented innovative regulatory and nonregulatory practices to protect and incentivize farming. Learn firsthand from policy experts and local farmers about the impacts of government policies and programs that support economic development, farmland preservation, and environmental restoration. This tour is part of the work plan of the Sustainable Agriculture & Healthy Food Systems Working Group, part of the APA Washington Chapter’s Ten Big Ideas Initiative designed to bring about far-reaching and fundamental change on a variety of issues. Transportation: Motorcoach, walking. Includes lunch.
Speakers: Andrea Petzel, AICP | Kara Martin, AICP | Megan Horst, AICP

Local Farmland Producing Local Food
CM | 3.5, Activity Code: W018
8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Monday, April 20
Tour three agricultural districts close to Seattle: one surrounded by urban development, one in a river valley, and one on a plateau with views toward Mount Rainier. Meet entrepreneurial farmers who supply local farmers markets and stores with their products. Visit with the owners of Canterbury Farms. Take a detour to the Seattle Tilth operation, where would-be farmers learn how grow and market their produce. And stop at Rockridge Orchards, which supplies several local farmers markets with a variety of products. Transportation: Motorcoach, walking.
Speakers: Karen Wolf, AICP

Impact of Seattle’s Local Food Policies
8:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. – Monday, April 20
CM | 2.0, Activity Code: W019
Seattle’s approach to food policy focuses on expanding access to healthy food, creating opportunities for urban agriculture, and fostering the connection between farmers and the people they feed. This workshop focuses on Seattle’s efforts to expand in-city food production and how this work has increased access to healthy food. The full-day tour includes visits Marra Farm, Rainier Beach Urban Farm and Wetlands, Beacon Hill Food Forest, and the rooftop farm of the Bastille restaurant. Transportation: Motorcoach, walking. 

Cultivating a Thriving Agriculture Economy
7:45 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Tuesday, April 21
CM | 6.0, Activity Code: W039
Enjoy the beauty of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival while meeting the people, organizations, and governments that work to sustain a flourishing agricultural economy. Find out what regulatory, taxing, and community programs are cultivating the area’s prosperity. April is one of the most stunning times to see the Skagit Valley, with its blooming daffodils and world-renowned tulip fields. Leave with a deep understanding that it takes all sectors of a community to create and appreciate the value of place.
Speakers: Lucy Norris | Allen Rozema | Patsy Martin | Kara Symonds | Kathryn Gardow | Tim Rosenhan | Kris Knight | Kirk Johnson, AICP | Stephen Antupit