Fostering Food Systems Transformation: An Examination of Planning in the Central Puget Sound Region
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My two primary research questions were: How and to what extent does planning in the Central Puget Sound Region address food systems issues? and What is the relationship of food systems planning to food sovereignty? I conducted a qualitative evaluation of planning practice in the Central Puget Sound region. Specifically, I examined 58 comprehensive plans, the Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council, and the City of Seattle’s food systems efforts. My data collection tools included document analysis, meeting observation, and interviews. The first main finding of this dissertation is that planning is paying increasing, yet still incomplete attention to food systems issues. Among comprehensive plans, many food systems issues are not well addressed. At the Puget Sound Regional Food Policy Council and City of Seattle, there is evidence of increased capacity for food governance, particularly in terms of staff support, integration into regulatory and legal frameworks, and the formation of joint-actor partnerships and networks. However, food does not yet have a strong mandate, adequate resources, full buy-in from leadership and staff, or engagement from citizens particularly those from traditionally marginalized communities. The ability of local government to intervene and affect food systems change is questionable. Second, planning practice is not strongly aligned with food sovereignty. In their practice, planners pay attention to some aspects of food sovereignty but do not give full attention to the six rich and multi-faceted principles of food sovereignty. Among the three units of analysis, there is a lack of attention to important aspects of food sovereignty including the right to food, access to farmland by small-scale and diverse farmers, good working conditions for all food systems workers, the full spectrum of relocalized food systems activities, community ownership and decision-making, and agro-ecological production practices. I identify several contributions of my work. First, I provide one possible resolution about the ongoing debate about whether government can play a role in food sovereignty. I suggest that planners can engage in radical incrementalism, by adopting a values-explicit approach to food systems change. I also propose clear direction for planners to support food sovereignty in urban areas in the United States.
- Urban planning