Katherine Ruhf and Kate Clancy recently released an extensive report that explores the concepts, practices, challenges, and promise of regional food systems. The report’s focus is on the Northeast U.S., a laboratory for regional food systems thinking and action, but it also describes and gives examples of regional food systems development across the country. The arguments in favor of regional approaches and explorations apply to all regions and embracing them could not be more imperative to address contemporary conditions.
The report moves effortlessly between concepts and applied perspectives. It is a useful tool for grassroots community groups as well as useful in formal academic settings. For deeper exploration, fifty-four pages of references point to literature on this topic. At the end of the report, the authors offer a checklist “Are We Being Served: a Tool for Regional Food and Farm Policy Evaluation”, to further ground our thinking on regional food systems.
Chapters address language and concepts, regionalism, attributes and dimensions of regional food systems, and constraints and challenges.
From the report:
“Diversity, resilience, and sustainability—fundamental to systems thinking—are the core of a complex regional food systems framework. Regions must determine which resilience
characteristics already exist and which need development. Social justice—broadly referring
to the fair and equitable distribution of political, economic and social rights, and power and
opportunity in a society—is also a core concern in regional food systems development. These
overarching and unifying themes are reflected in six dimensions that describe the current
conditions, salient elements, and potential of regional food systems. These six dimensions are:
- Food needs and supply…
- Natural resources…
- Economic development…
- Social and economic justice…
- Human and political capacity…”
The full report is available at the Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems website, along with an executive summary and a reflection on what the authors learned in the review process.