Cultivating Food Equity

A University at Buffalo team at Habitat II in Quito Ecuador.

The University at Buffalo team at Habitat II in Quito, Ecuador

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. 

Our Working Solutions

Dr. Samina Raja and her team in Kerala, India.

Dr. Samina Raja and her team in Kerala, India

Identifying Needs Testing Options Scaling Up Evaluating Solutions
  • Growing Food Connections through Planning: Lessons from the United States
    Dr. Samina Raja, professor of urban and regional planning, and her team co-authored the chapter "Growing Food Connections through Planning: Lessons from the United States" in a collaborative project with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and University College London Press. The book "Integrating Food into Urban Planning," is a terrific resource on the state of food systems planning across the globe.
  • Growing Food Connections: Stories of Innovation
    This series of policy briefs provides short case studies of these innovative policies. Twelve briefs are available, including the latest one which features the work of Multnomah County, Oregon. Titled 'Leading the Way: A Legacy of Food Systems Planning and Policy Work in Multnomah County, Oregon', the brief explores the policy and planning behind more than a decade of food systems work in Multnomah, Oregon. 
  • Growing Food Connections: Stories of Opportunity
    In 2015, eight communities from across the county were chosen as Communities of Opportunity (COO), places where there is significant potential to strengthen ties between small and medium –sized farmers and residents with limited food access. Each case study in the series contains sections highlighting opportunities and challenges within the county’s food system.  The brief summarizes the local public policy environment, including ways in which community-led civic organizations and private entrepreneurs have partnered with supportive county, city, and town governments. The case studies conclude with ‘Ideas for the Future’, a section on key future policy and implementation efforts that can strengthen each county’s food system. Chautauqua County and Wyandotte County case studies have been shared with the communities for broader distribution.
  • Growing Food Connections: Planning and Policy Briefs
    Highlights promising planning techniques used by local governments across North America to promote agricultural viability and/or healthy food access.Three briefs are available, including the latest one on addressing problems in the food supply chain titled Food Aggregation, Processing, and Distribution: The Local Government's Role in Supporting Food Systems Infrastructure for Fruits and Vegetables.
  • Growing Food Connections: Translating Research for Policy Series
    This series translates peer-reviewed journal article on food systems planning for a broad audience of food system practitioners, local governments, planners and policy makers. The first brief, How Food Policy Emerges, is now available.  This brief translates the work in the journal article Rustbelt Radicalism: A decade of food systems planning in Buffalo, New York, originally published in the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

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Our Team

Our work is done in collaboration with many talented community partners. We list these partners on the affiliated project pages.