Food Systems Advising Pathway

Food Systems Advising Pathway


Megan Horst (lead), Marissa Zapata (and others outside of USP; see


Food is an important part of our communities, and a necessity of life. Food systems planning intersects all other specializations in planning, including land use, environment, economic development, community development, and transportation. There is growing attention to the role planning can play in fostering healthy, sustainable, and just local and regional food systems. Planning decisions impact the food system at every stage, from production (rural and periurban farmland protection, support for fisheries, zoning for urban agriculture and community gardens) through processing (permitting slaughter and processing facilities, locating storage and warehousing including food hubs) and distribution (e.g ships and ports, trucks, freight, and road infrastructure) to consumption (restaurants, schools, farmers markets, CSA, grocery stores, co-ops, and other food retail). Planners are actively involved on issues of re-localizing food systems and addressing inequities in access to healthy, local, sustainable food. Jurisdictions, including municipalities such as Baltimore, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and others, have hired dedicated food systems planners. Many states, MPOs, counties, cities, and towns (including Multnomah County and Portland) have produced food action plans. Meanwhile, many other planners -- without food in their titles -- address food systems issues. Food systems planners also work in non-governmental and non-formal planning settings, including non-profits, service providers, consulting firms, and advocacy organizations.

Check out the American Planning Association Policy Guide on Community and Regional Food Systems Planning: and other key readings:

Check out some Faces of Food Systems Planning around the country:

Check out Portland’s Sustainable Food program: 

Join the Sustainable Food Systems Certificate list-serve (Google group, must use your account). Mainly intended for certificate students and used to share announcements about classes, events,  internships, jobs, etc. 

Where food systems planners work, Portland region:

Organization Type  Examples of Agencies and Organizations
Government agencies engaged in food systems issues, land use planning, economic development and public health. City of Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainable Food Systems Program
Multnomah County Health Department
Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development
Northeast Oregon Economic Development District
Washington County (agritourism)
Consulting firms conducting analyses of food systems issues Ecotrust (a unique organization with for-profit and non-profit entities)
Various local and national firms do food-related planning (i.e. on urban agriculture, farmland issues, food trucks, economic development, etc.)
Community development organizations working on food systems, entrepreneurship, food security, urban agriculture and farmland preservation issues. Hacienda CDC
Rogue Valley Food System Network
Oregon Food Bank
Columbia Gorge Earth Center
Advocacy organizations 1000 Friends of Oregon
1000 Friends of Yamhill County
Friends of Family Farmers

Foundational knowledge and skills:

Capabilities Course Type
Historical changes to urban food systems, overview of existing food system, overview and assessment of various municipal food system planning approaches USP 576 Feeding the City** (offered every other year, currently in Spring as of 2016) Policy, Theory
Conceptual, legal and technical aspects for plan implementation; roles and modes for regulatory and investment strategies USP 542 Land Use Implementation** Policy
Examines public health effects of industrial and alternative food systems. PHE 527 Food Systems and Public Health** Course is offered infrequently; also consider PHE 522 Policy, Theory
Explores food and agriculture policy development and implementation at global, national, and local levels. PA 574 Food and Agricultural Policy** Also consider PS 577 Policy, Theory

** indicates courses that can be used towards the Sustainable Food Systems certificate

Recommended course sequencing:

  Fall Winter Spring
Year 1 - USP 542 USP 576 
Year 2 PA 574 (Also consider PS 577) - PHE 527
(can be taken in either year 1 or year 2)

Additional knowledge and skills relevant to field:

USP Courses

Most of these address some food-related topics, but they are not solely focused on food issues and encompass a broad range of topic. MURP students interested in pursuing the food systems certificate may be able to work with the Program Director and the instructor to focus their experience on food, and thus have the USP courses count towards the Certificate. Please check with the Food Systems Certificate Program Director.

USP 524 Site Planning
USP 542 Land Use Implementation
USP 555 Land Use: Legal Aspects
USP 579 State and Local Public Finance
USP 569 Sustainable Cities and Regions
USP 528 Concepts of Community Development
USP 550 Concepts of Citizen Participation
USP 551 Community Economic Development
USP 517 Urban Economic Development Policy
USP 572 Regional Economic Development
USP 547 Planning for Developing Countries
USP 549 Regional Planning and Growth Management
USP 512 Environmental Planning Methods
USP 558/559 Planning Practice Workshop (topics change; may food-related ones)
USP 578 Impact Assessment

Graduate Certificate in Sustainable Food Systems Courses

Students must complete six courses that meet all six learning outcomes; see for details.

Other Relevant Courses

PS 477/577 Global Food Politics
SOC 510/610 Food, Justice, and Social Movements
SW 520 Social Welfare History and Policy
SW 532 Advocacy and Empowerment
SOC 565/665 - Environmental Sociology