Portland started to deal with food policies and food planning in 2005, when the food sustainability programme was launched and a new office was opened in the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. The main aim of the programme was to embed food in all territorial planning tools; in order to fulfil this aim some problems, such as the management of community gardens, began to be regulated at urban level, while other issues, such as ones relating to the management of short supply chains, were managed at metropolitan level. Alongside the development of the food sustainability programme, interest in food policy has been growing; strategies to improve the use of local food products were developed and the quality of local food production was promoted.
This case study allows us to draw some conclusions about the challenges and opportunities of connecting food systems and urban planning. There are at least three challenges/opportunities to be met. They relate to efforts to implement a spatial planning model that aims to be cross-sectoral/holistic, multi-level and place based. Practitioners and academics involved in spatial planning have recognised for years the need to develop inter-sectoral and holistic strategies. Food planning needs, on one hand, to be considered in relation to the practicalities of local resources and climate, and, on the other hand, to recognise and react to other sectors. Food interacts, for instance, with health policies and transport policies. Because of these peculiarities, food planning lends itself to the implementation of inter-sectoral and holistic spatial planning models.
The second challenge/opportunity of food planning concerns efforts to problematise the relationships between the urban and rural environments and to adopt a multi-level approach. The diffusion of concepts such as city region, metropolitan city or metropolitan area highlights the fact that urban land use planning must give more importance to urban–rural relationships. In a territorial policy that is highly focused on the metropolitan scale and on urban–rural relationships, the added value provided by food planning becomes increasingly evident. Food planning can tackle some of the main problems of metropolitan planning: the regeneration of rural areas, the development of urban agriculture, and sustainable strategies for cities.
The last challenge/opportunity concerns the effort to make food planning place based, i.e. it tries to start from knowledge of place and from local actors’ evaluation of local resources. Such an approach is likely to create problems, including the ‘local trap’. Local food is not always good and healthy. Food planning therefore requires us to recognise that the development of local food resources should not be uncritically celebrated.
Source: Borrelli (2018) “Connecting food systems and urban planning. The experience of Portland, Oregon” en Integrating Food into Urban Planning.
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