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

Community networks are rebuilding urban food systems (UFS), particularly after the COVID-19 pandemia, 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 UB Food Lab, John Hopkins University, and the University of Minnesota is working in partnership with the Massachusetts Avenue Project, Urban Fruit and Veggies, Buffalo Food Equity Network, and Appetite for Change to conduct a retrospective examination of nature, extent, and intensity of social networks in the UFS and their role in facilitating (or, dampening) food system level change towards healthier communities. 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.