Growing Policy from the Ground Up: Building, Deploying, and Testing Networks to Strengthen Urban Food Systems

Community networks are rebuilding urban food systems (UFS) but experience various constraints exacerbated by ‘food-blind’ local governments. By harnessing the power of social networks and collective efficacy in transforming local food policy, and thus local food systems, and linking local governments and community-driven innovation in urban food systems, the ‘Growing Policy from the Ground Up: Building, Deploying, and Testing Networks to Strengthen Urban Food Systems’ project aims to generate capacity-building lessons for local governments throughout the United States. Using lessons drawn from Buffalo, NY and Minneapolis, MN, the Food Lab is working in partnership with the Massachusetts Avenue Project, Urban Fruits and Veggies, and Appetite for Change to conduct a retrospective examination documenting the nature, extent, and intensity of social networks in urban food systems, and their role in facilitating (or, dampening) food systems level change. Additionally, the project examines the limitations between local government policy networks and food system networks, especially those impacting urban growers of color, and develops and tests the role of historically-informed, community-led and technologically appropriate methods in engaging urban growers (of color) to emerge as leaders in local policy networks. By illustrating how local government policy and UFS networks intersect, this project lays the groundwork for a more inclusive, shared, and equitable governance of UFS.