Cultivating Food Equity

Bangles and Berries, Meena Kadri, 2009, Unmodified

Despite producing 70% of the world’s food, small-scale farmers remain undernourished, as do their neighbors throughout the Global South. Improving food security cannot be done by increasing agricultural production alone; a systems approach is needed to advance access to nutritious, culturally meaningful food. To cultivate food equity, we work with both local stakeholders, such as farm operators, and international influencers, like the UNFAO, studying, developing, and implementing cross-sector policies-in-action.

What is Food Equity?

By Samina Raja

Food equity is the expansive concept that all people have the ability and opportunity to grow and to consume healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods. In an equitable food system, all community members are able to grow, procure, barter, trade, sell, dispose and understand the sources of food in a manner that prioritizes culture, equitable access to land, fair and equitable prices and wages, human health, and ecological sustainability. Food equity requires that food systems be democratically controlled and community stakeholders  determine the policies that influence their food system.  

What is a community food system?

A community food system is the soil-to-soil system that enables the production, processing, distribution, acquisition, and consumption of food, and management of food waste. A CFS depends on natural resources, technologies, cultural norms, governance structures, policies and laws that shape and influence how food moves from farm to plate. An equitable CFS enhances the environmental, economic, social, and health equity of a place and its inhabitants. In the Global South, where hunger and malnutrition remain a pressing problem, community food systems are rapidly changing, creating both challenges and opportunities. Because of its complexity and breadth, community food systems are ripe for transdisciplinary scrutiny and innovation. 

In cities across the United States and in countries around the world, communities lack the ability and opportunity to access healthful, affordable, and culturally significant foods. In particular, food inequity leads to broken food systems that heighten undernourishment and hunger in low- and middle-income countries. 

Articles and Reflections


Developing a new urban agenda in Quito Ecuador at UN Habitat III, Camile Brown

Dealing with disparities in food acquisition practices among refugees, Alex Judelsohn

Our Working Solutions

Agriculture, F Delventhal Clagett Farm Fall, 2014

The first global sub-national food system policy database of its kind, the Global Database for City and Regional Food Policies is a resource for local and sub-national governments to learn about food system policies from around the globe.
In middle-income countries, food systems are being reshaped by a variety of factors including rising household incomes, urbanization, multi-scalar supply chains (regional, national, transnational), women’s labor force participation, state food programs, and changing international trade rules. Our project looks at this process from the perspective of smallholder farmers in the Caribbean, as both producers and consumers of food. 
UB faculty member, Samina Raja, and the Community for Global Health Equity Food Equity Team have partnered with the academic journal Built Environment to produce a special issue, Planning for Equitable Urban and Regional Food Systems, focused on food equity, power, and justice. This special issue features a dozen academic articles from across high- middle- and low-income countries. 
Global Health Equity co-sponsored a special issue of the practitioner-oriented Urban Agriculture Magazine focused on community involvement in urban planning and policy development to strengthen city-region food systems. The magazine is published by Resources for Urban Agriculture Foundation (RUAF). The special issue, titled Inclusive Use of Urban Space, which was co-sponsored by CGHE and the Food Lab is available on-line. 
UB's Food Lab organized a training workshop at the New York State chapter of the American Planning Association focused on the role of planning to create healthier environments for refugees. 
Members of the UB Food Lab attended Habitat III, the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. In collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, UB students and faculty organized a training on food systems planning at Habitat III. A team of five from the Food Lab, including Dr. Raja, staff, graduate students, and a volunteer facilitated the training.  The mayor of Sucre, Bolivia, which has many innovative policies pertaining to food, opened the session, along with Cecilia Marocchino from FAO headquarters. Participation exceeded the anticipated number of attendees - about 75 individuals from across the globe attended the training. The training was simultaneously translated in Spanish, as many attendees were from South America.

Our Team

Faculty Fellows

Diana Aga

Henry M. Woodburn Professor of Chemistry; Director of Graduate Studies

Department of Chemistry

611 Natural Sciences Complex

Phone: 716-645-4220


So Ra Baek

Assistant Professor

Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Hayes A 19


Martha Bohm

Assistant Professor


319 Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5214


Ying (Jessica) Cao

Assistant Professor

Division of Health Services Policy and Practice, Epidemiology and Environmental Health

268G-H Farber Hall

Phone: 716-829-5369; Fax: 716-829-2979


Emmanuel Frimpong Boamah

Assistant Professor

Urban and Regional Planning

Alex Judelsohn

Research Associate

Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab

Isok Kim

Assistant Professor

Social Work

667 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1252


Rajiv Kishore

Associate Professor

Management Science and Systems

325N Jacobs Management Center

Phone: 716-645-3507; Fax: 716-645-6117


Lucia Leone

Assistant Professor

Community Health and Health Behavior

333 Kimball Tower

Phone: 716-829-6953


Sara Metcalf

Associate Professor


115 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-0479


Heather Orom

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Department of Community Health and Health Behavior

304 Kimball Tower Buffalo, NY 14214

Phone: 716-829-6682; Fax: 716-829-6040


Harvey Palmer

Chair and Associate Professor

Political Science

514 Park Hall

Phone: 716-645-8449


Samina Raja


Urban and Regional Planning

233C Hayes Hall

Phone: 716-829-5881


John Ringland

Associate Professor


244 Mathematics Building

Phone: 716-645-8773; Fax: 716-645-5039


Sarah Robert

Associate Professor

Department of Learning and Instruction

514 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-4046


Debabrata (Debu) Talukdar



234B Jacobs Management Center

Phone: 716-645-3243


Hua (Helen) Wang

Associate Professor


309 Baldy Hall

Phone: 716-645-1501


Marion Werner

Associate Professor


111 Wilkeson Quad

Phone: 716-645-0475


Wenyao Xu

Assistant Professor

Computer Science and Engineering

330 Davis Hall

Phone: 716-645-4748


Student Associates

Subashni Raj

PhD Candidate

Urban and Regional Planning

Erin Sweeney

Graduate Assistant

Community for Global Health Equity

Wit Wichaidit

PhD Candidate

Epidemiology and Environmental Health