In October 2012, Chicago released a draft food systems plan, called A Recipe for Healthy Places that recommends changes to the city’s food environment to reduce obesity and strategies to improve education about food, nutrition and healthy eating habits. Its vision statement calls for creating a “culture that values fresh, nutritious food” through urban farms and gardens and food enterprises, with adequate food retail availability in each neighborhood and a “food safety net” to ensure that the lowest income residents are able to eat well. The draft plan was developed through a process that included 26 public meetings held over 13 months, with more than 400 participants, and it suggests roles for both government and non-governmental entities.
While the plan outlines very general goals and strategies, many of which are included in other municipal food plans, A Recipe for Healthy Places describes several interesting initiatives:
(1) The Green Healthy Neighborhoods project, which involves residents and NGOs in several South Side neighborhoods (Englewood, West Englewood, Washington Park, Woodlawn and parts of New City and Greater Grand Crossing) in developing a land-use strategy to create urban agriculture districts.
(2) An effort to integrate public health issues and strategies into local land-use planning projects. The Department of Housing and Economic Development will incorporate Health Impact Assessments (HIA) in local land-use planning to identify strategies for increasing the healthful impacts of a project, while the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is considering incorporating HIAs into regional planning and project development efforts.
(3) The creation of a “system of farms and gardens,” with the City joint venturing with an NGO or land trust to develop city owned vacant land into urban agriculture sites, including amalgamated scattered farm sites. In addition, the Chicago Park District will identify space within parks for food production.
(4) An effort by the Department of Housing and Economic Development to work with residents and community organizations to identify land in neighborhoods that can be prepared for commercial-scale food production through a local planning process that involves finding suitable vacant land, willing community partners and an organization to maintain and operate the site(s).
(5) The development of a network of nonprofit and for-profit organizations to provide resources and technical assistance for school and community gardens.
(6) Protocol development for site remediation and management for food production.
(7) Work with existing retailers, including drug store chains, to increase fresh produce and other healthy food retail options, especially in underserved areas.
(8) Developing more-efficient systems to help eligible households obtain and maintain SNAP benefits.
(9) Creating standards for the food served at catered meetings, public meetings, and vending machines in City buildings, and guidelines for healthy food for events that involve public funding or permits.
(10) Adoption as a formal plan by the City of Chicago.
The plan is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) Initiative, which is funded through the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund. A number of other US cities, like Los Angeles and Seattle, are using CPPW funds to do food system planning.