Category Archives: Uncategorized

Erin Sweeney, Master in Urban Planning Student

Erin is iErin Sweeneyn her first year in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Buffalo. She earned her BA in Community Development from Allegheny College in 2010. Her work prior to joining the Food Lab was focused on rural community development through access to and education around local and affordable food in Northwestern Pennsylvania and Central Maine. She spent the last six years managing an inter-generational community garden, developing regional support for SNAP incentives at farmers markets, and integrating nutrition curriculum into after-school and gifted programs for youth. Her work in the Food Lab is primarily focused on the role of planning in international food systems through UB’s Community of Excellence for Global Health Equity (CGHE). She has lived and worked in Ecuador and Colombia which gives context for her global work with CGHE. 

Communities of Excellence in Global Health Equity

Dr. Samina Raja, Principal Investigator of the Food Lab, is a part of University of Buffalo’s new Community of Excellence focusing on Global Health Equity.  This project will combine the strength of many disciplines to address the challenges of sanitation, food access, child mortality, refugee health and more both in other countries and here at home in Buffalo, NY.  Learn more about the project from the video below.

Active Commuting in the Sweet Home Central School District

SHS_SRTS_logoSafe Routes to Schools programs seek to foster improvements that facilitate active commuting in five thematic areas: education, encouragement, engineering, enforcement, and evaluation. The Town of Amherst, New York is the lead sponsor of a Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program that builds off a successful 2008 SRTS program in the Williamsville Central School District. This project, funded through the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, facilitates infrastructure and non-infrastructure improvements to increase active commuting to schools in the Amherst Central and Sweet Home Central school districts.

The Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab is actively involved in the education, encouragement, and evaluation components of this program in the Sweet Home Central School District and the Amherst Central School District through events such as Walk to School Day and other active commuting events. The Town of Amherst Engineering Department is our partner in engineering, and the Town of Amherst Police Department is our partner in enforcement.

Team Members: Samina Raja, Sora Baek, Bumjoon Kang, Jeanne Leccese, Elizabeth Machnica


The Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab has developed a number of resources in partnership with the Sweet Home Central School District and the Town of Amherst. These resources include maps for each district elementary school that indicate safe walking and bicycling routes to school and infographics with useful information and facts about walking and bicycling for parents, students and school administrators. In addition, we have published the results of a survey of parents from the Sweet Home Central School District. These resources can be found below.

APA Planners Training Service Announces Workshops

The American Planning Association’s Planners Training Service (PTS) will be offering three new workshops on current topics in planning during their November event in Washington, DC.  Workshops will run from November 10-15 and will focus on Community Food Systems Planning, Transportation Innovations in Biking and Parking, and Suburban Redevelopment.  Dr. Samina Raja, of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab, will be presenting with Kara Martin, AICP, on advanced planning and policy techniques for launching and strengthening food systems.  The two day workshop earns AICP members 14 credits and will focus on using community food systems planning  to promote pubic health, economic development, and quality of life.


Walk to School Day in Sweet Home School District

The Safe Routes to School Project, coordinated by Travis Norton of the UB Food Lab, recently launched a successful Walk to School Day in Sweet Home School District.  Part of a larger national campaign to improve infrastructure around schools to encourage students to walk and bike to school, the event took place at several elementary schools in Amherst on October 8th.  Read more about the event featured in the Buffalo News.

Two Food Lab Papers Published

The Food Lab is pleased to announce two members of the lab were published this fall.

Dr. Samina Raja’s paper, “Rustbelt Radicalism: A Decade of Food Systems Planning Practice in Buffalo, New York” has been published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.

Dr. Solhyon Baek’s paper, “Park Design and Children’s Active Play : A Micro-Scale Spatial Analysis of Intensity of Play in Olmsted’s Delaware Park” was published in Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design.

We congratulate both researchers and encourage you to read and share the articles.

Travis Norton Honored with Two Awards at MUP Graduation

Travis Norton, a Research Project Coordinator in the Food Lab, was awarded both the AICP Outstanding Student Award and the Academic Excellence Award.  The American Institute of Certified Planners recognized Travis for his high promise for professional excellence.  In addition, Travis also received the Academic Excellence Award from the University of Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning for having the highest GPA in the program.

Travis has focused his work around transportation issues in planning.  He is interested in the linkages between the built environment and human behavior, including the connections between transportation systems, health, and sustainability.  Travis is currently managing the Safe Routes to School Program in conjunction with Sweet Home Central School District



Growing Food Connections Launches Website to Train Communities across the U.S. in Food Systems Planning

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Growing Food Connections, a research, planning and outreach initiative to strengthen community food systems across the United States, has launched as a resource repository for communities looking to broaden access to healthy food and sustain their local farms and food producers through public policy.

Led by the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo in partnership with Cultivating Healthy Places, Ohio State University and American Farmland Trust, Growing Food Connections (GFC) will target 10 “Communities of Opportunity” – communities poised to tackle their food access challenges and agricultural viability – with an intensive program of education, training, technical assistance and extension activities.

The five-year, $3.96 million initiative is funded by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. American Planning Association is a key project partner along with a National Advisory Committee of esteemed leaders in agriculture, food systems and public health.

“Communities increasingly are looking for ways to connect their populations – particularly the under-served – with healthy, affordable and culturally acceptable food while fostering a viable agricultural sector,” said Samina Raja, PhD, UB associate professor of urban and regional planning, director of the Food Lab and a principal investigator for Growing Food Connections.

The new website, along with GFC’s direct extension activities in these communities, led by the American Farmland Trust, will ensure planning officials have the tools they need to develop, implement and maintain policy solutions to sustain agriculture and strengthen their food systems.

“This effort is unique,” suggests Julia Freedgood, Assistant Vice President of Programs at American Farmland Trust, “because it builds capacity of local governments to support family farmers and ranchers as a path toward community food security.”

Kimberley Hodgson, planner and principal of Cultivating Healthy Places notes that “the website will provide local government officials with a range of tools to assist them in developing their own food system plans and policies.” A social networking forum and webinars will support information sharing and peer-to-peer dialogue across participating communities. Forthcoming is a comprehensive database of local and regional public policies, from food production ordinances to food system plans and local procurement policies, to facilitate policy change.

With information on continuing education, doctoral programs in food systems planning and policy at Ohio State University and University at Buffalo and student internship opportunities, the website also supports GFC’s goal to develop an educational framework for the next generation of food systems planners.

For more information, visit:

Posted on 2/12/14