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Lecture Recap: Planning a Resilient and Equitable Food System

Tuesday, May 24

Food systems planning is a relatively new discipline; it was not until the first decade of the 21st century that cities and counties began to pilot food systems planning, with a major takeoff and acceleration in the 2010’s. This panel described the emerging food systems planning paradigms and how they are being infused with values of equity, social justice, and resilience.

There is now widespread recognition that the food system poses a critical task for planners, blending activities around preserving farmland from urban development, fostering the growth of food related businesses (especially in BIPOC and Refugee/Immigrant communities), and ensuring the availability and affordability of healthy nutritious food. All of this in the context of public health, building community, ecological stewardship, and the ongoing risk of climate change. Four presenters discussed these issues from a broad range of perspectives.

RICHARD CONLIN is a Principal in the Conlin Columbia Partnership for Cities, which develops workforce housing in conjunction with community and cultural facilities, and a member of the Washington State Food Policy Forum. He reviewed the history of food policy planning in Washington, and how local food policies are connected to land ownership, economic development, and access to healthy and nutritious food for all. Climate change has become an urgent issue, as projections suggest that Eastern Washington could replace California’s Central Valley as the main source of fresh produce in the future, raising huge questions about water supply, ownership of land, and equity.

MERCY KARIUKI-MCGEE is the co-founder of Haki Farmers Collective, a non-profit that works to reintegrate traditional and inherently sustainable food and medicine knowledge that has been impacted by the history of settler colonization across Black, Indigenous, and People of Color in the Pacific Northwest. She reviewed the struggles to fund and develop BIPOC food projects, and the work of the BIPOC team she led in the study, Assessing WA Food System Through an Equity Lens – Bridging the Gap Through a Culturally Relevant Approach. This study opened a critical discussion on disparities in our food system and provided guidelines for working towards equity.

DAVID BULINDAH is the co-founder and Development Director of Wakulima USA, a farming and food business cooperative that advances small business development and food sovereignty for low-income immigrants and people of color in the Puget Sound region. He spoke of the challenges facing immigrants, who often find themselves isolated from their traditional foods and cultural traditions, and of the possibilities for developing BIPOC and Refugee/Immigrant led farming in the Puget Sound area.

BRIDGET IGOE is a strategic advisor at the City of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment, who advises on a range of policies, programs, and investments aimed at  supporting a more equitable, sustainable, and resilient local food system and community food security. She presented the ongoing evolution of the Seattle Food Policy Action Plan, which has a strong focus on community engagement and on bringing urban food resources and opportunities to diverse communities in order to carry out the City’s goals around Race and Social Justice.