FoodPlanCNY brings together diverse voices to create a snapshot of the Central New York food system. Through an assets-based approach, the project identifies opportunities to leverage existing resources to strengthen the economic, public health, and environmental outcomes of the food system. Emerging through this community-based process are three common themes that provide opportunities for building a better food system in Central New York:

1. Viability

Capable of working and functioning sustainably; capable of existence and development.

2. Access

Ability to obtain or make use of something

3. Coordination

Organizing people or groups so they properly work together; compatible functioning of parts for effective results.

Opportunity: Viability

Everyone benefits from a viable food system, one able to respond to shifting economic circumstances, environmental change, demographic shifts, and other fluctuations. Central New York benefits from the individual and collective efforts of farmers, businesses, community leaders, policy makers, academics, organizations, public health advocates, activists, and others working across the different sectors of the food system all of whom dedicate time, energy, knowhow, and extensive resources to maintain viability. Food system actors face significant challenges posed by global economic change and major restructuring of the food system. New market opportunities are created, operations are diversified, and technology shifts necessitate adaption and foster innovation. Taken collectively, the resilience of the CNY food system and diversity of experiences serve as valuable resources for strengthening the food system and seizing new food system opportunities.

Key opportunities for enhancing the economic, social, and environmental viability of the CNY food system include:

Inclusive Economic Development
How can food systems be an important contributor to the region’s economy?

Environmental Quality
How can food production (and other food system sectors) contribute to the on-going capability of the region’s soil, water, and other environmental systems?

Public Health
What role can food play in efforts to improve public health outcomes throughout CNY?

Cultural Resilience
How do food systems help maintain cultural knowledge and identity?

Opportunity: Access

Equitable access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food is fundamental for healthy communities and is influenced by many factors including the physical environment, transportation infrastructure, living wage jobs, and the social environment. A strong and viable food system also relies on people and organizations having access to critical resources (economic, natural, social, and political), as well as access to information for making decisions, whether it is consumers learning about the availability of local products or organizations’ need for information to assess the effectiveness of their programs.

The analysis of existing food system data and interviews with stakeholders in the CNY food system point to several opportunities for improving access:

Food access
How can the regional food system increase access to fresh, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods for every community? 

Resources access
How can farmers gain access to necessary resources such as land or new market opportunities? 

Information access
What information is available about the food system that would help people make better decisions and how can that information be shared across various sectors of the food system? 

Economic access
How might we leverage the food system for economic development opportunities that benefit all Central New Yorkers?

Opportunities: Coordination

Food systems are complex and require coordinated efforts across different sectors, organizations and government agencies to foster change. To increase the amount of regionally produced food in local markets, for instance, involves coordination with producers, distributors, processors, government agencies, funding organizations, and different types of markets. Creating quality employment opportunities in the food system requires coordination between potential employers and workforce development programs. And economic growth and innovation in the food system is best achieved through coordination between business owners, economic development organizations, policy makers, and government agencies. Many people and organizations have worked hard to address critical issues in the regional food system. However, coordination would increase the effectiveness of these efforts, reduce the duplication of resources, and expand the scale of their impacts.

Stakeholders with significant experience in different sectors of the CNY food system identify extensive opportunities for coordination:

Connecting the productivity of the region to local markets
How can we rebuild the regional food system infrastructure to get regionally produced food into local markets?

Linking farms to institutions
What are the barriers and opportunities to increase institutional purchases of regional produce?

Re-connecting consumers to the food system
How can consumers connect more directly with producers, distributors, processors, and local markets?

On-going food system planning
In what way can local governments and organizations support food system planning as a critical part of community planning and economic development?