Food Access & Planning

Until recently food access, and even food systems as a whole, was largely overlooked by the planning community. American Planning Association research suggests that planners often do not consider food systems a planning issue, and that it is outside the scope of planners in general and urban planning specifically. Over the past few years, however, members of both the academic and practicing sectors of the planning field have increasingly realized that adequate food access to healthful food is as important to urban life as access to adequate transportation or housing availability, subjects long central to city, regional, and even national planning policy. Adequate access to food across a community is a key factor in providing an equitable and healthy place to live.

Why is Food Access a Planning Issue for the Portland Bureau of Sustainability? Food access contributes to several of the Portland Plan’s key objectives, including:

• community health
• livability
• equitable access to services and assets
• sustainability

Additionally, many comments captured in Voices from the Community (part of Vision PDX) touched on food access-lack of access in some communities and a desire for easier access to sustainably and locally produced foods were two of the issues most frequently mentioned.

While there have been food assessments conducted in a few Portland neighborhoods, there is no city-wide coordination of food assessments. Existing research suggests that while Portland does not have the kind of spatially defined food deserts found in some cities, there are households that do not have regular access to sufficient amounts of healthful food for reasons other than geographic proximity to healthy food supplies.


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