The food system is composed of a vast set of complicated relationships among growers, processors, distributors, retailers, researchers, advocates, and policy makers. It is both global and local at the same time. Because we all eat, we are inextricably linked to the food system, whether or not we are actively engaged in knowing where our food comes from and where our food waste goes. Unlike days long ago, when people relied on the knowledge of how to produce their own food, today it is almost impossible to know everything about where our food comes from. Try it yourself. Think about what you ate today. How far back can you trace the ingredients?

Food systems planning is a comprehensive future-oriented approach to maintaining and improving the global to local network that nourishes us. It includes traditional planning areas like infrastructure, the physical environment, economic development and environmental impact as well as emerging areas like community food security and public health. Much of it is driven from the bottom-up or the greater public interest. Indeed, civic engagement has been a hallmark of recent policy advocacy for change in the food system. Through food systems awareness and planning, elected officials and all levels of government are beginning to realize their role in the food system.

The interconnectedness of the food system makes it difficult to separate out any one thing, from scale to geography, or culture to government. Topic areas of the food system are generally derived as functional parts of the system. They include:

Land based: agriculture, farmland preservation, zoning, urban agriculture, design
Environment: water, soil, natural resources, energy, biodiversity, waste
Economy: distribution, processing, retail, jobs, investment, globalization
Education: consumer, academic, youth
Policy: government and institutional operations and funding that affect food systems
Social justice: food access, community food security, hunger, labor
Health: diet, disease, personal habits, cultural habits,
Food cultures: ethnic traditions, farmers markets, regional identity, history, culinary and cooking skills

The American Planning Association adopted a Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Planning in 2007. University programs have also adopted food systems as an emerging field of study. From Urban and Regional Planning to Public Health, Landscape Architecture and Sustainable Agriculture a wide variety of courses covering topics of the food system are being offered.

about Lynn Peemoeller

As a consultant practitioner Lynn blends expertise in natural sciences, urban planning, policy, agriculture, food, and culture to study and work on a wide range of projects that address the human interaction with the complex cycle of food from the farm to the fork to the garbage dump, examining both the negative and positive state of humanity and development shaped by food, and ultimately addressing the question: how will we feed ourselves in the future?

She has experience organizing and managing farmers markets including Greenmarket in New York City and Chicago’s Green City Market where she was market manager for three years. In Chicago, she was Program Director of Family Farmed and acted as Co-Chair of the Chicago Food Policy Advisory Council and the President of Slow Food Chicago.  Partnerships and clients have included the Brooklyn and Chicago Botanic Gardens, Slow Food, The City of Chicago, Growing Home and more. She taught a Landscape Architecture seminar in Food Systems and Urban Agriculture the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Currently she is developing projects that utilize alternative urban spaces to grow food and partnerships with artists, activists, and academics to develop a dialogue about the past, present and future role of food in context to urban systems.

M.U.P.P. University of Illinois, Chicago
B.A. Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH

Hear Lynn talk about food systems at Tuesdays at APA (the American Planning Association) November, 2008

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