Digital guide helps administrators build resilience in food systems

January 27, 2023

****Source, American City and County, Andy Castillo, Published Dec 08, 2022

Over the last decade, historic climate-driven disasters and other events unprecedented in the modern era—like the ongoing pandemic—have made clear the importance of building resilience into food systems. In this effort, a new digital guide developed by The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence, “Food System Resilience: A Planning Guide for Local Governments,” can help administrators prepare their communities for the next emergency.

“Recent social, political and climate disasters highlight the need for municipalities to be better prepared to confront the challenges to their food systems,” said Roni Neff, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and a co-creator of the publication. “This guide provides tools for taking on that work in a strategic way that builds on assets, addresses historic inequities, and strengthens capacity across the board.”

The publication notes that vulnerable populations are the ones most at risk. For example, the pandemic “stretched thin the already limited resources of nonprofit food assistance programs, with governments from the federal to local level stepping in to help fill the gaps and coordinate responses,” reads the guide, which was developed over a year by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence in collaboration with representatives from five American cities: Austin, Tx.; Baltimore, Md.; Denver, Colo.; Moorhead, Minn.; and Orlando, Fla. Participants were selected to represent diverse interests and challenges, a brief about the project says, and to combine evidence and on-the-ground experiences from practitioners.

Local governments, in particular, are uniquely equipped to address food system resilience because they oversee local policies like zoning laws. Additionally, school districts act as key food distribution networks to students. And because they’re closer to constituents, local governments are more responsive to community needs. They play a crucial role in coordinating emergency food response efforts, the guide notes.

“As new evidence emerges and food system resilience as a field of study grows, practices in this guide are sure to adapt and change. This guide offers a place to start,” said Elsie Moore, a Ph.D candidate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a co-creator of the guide, which includes six modules. Beginning with a foundation in equitable resilience, the guide directs administrators in a linear fashion how to define, assess, strategize, implement and measure a food system’s resilience. While it’s designed as a tool for local government, both staff and policymakers, those outside of the public sector interested in food system resilience can also benefit from strategies in the guide, the brief continues.

The resource provides information, resources and other tools for local administrators to build local food system resilience by either creating a stand-alone food system resilience plan or embedding strategies for food system resilience into government plans.

“Effective food systems work requires meaningful collaboration with community partners and community members. We hope this planning guide can be a tool to catalyze multiple stakeholders and lead to broader food system resilience beyond a single entity,” says Meg Burke, a researcher at The Bloomberg Center for Government Excellence and another co-creator.

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