Samina Raja: Over Regulation and Underinvestment: Local Governing Planning Response to Problems in the Food System

Three garden perspectives

Samina Raja is an associate professor of urban and regional planning and the principal investigator of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Her teaching and research focus on the role of planning and policy in building healthy communities and sustainable food systems. She currently directs Growing Food Connections, a five-year federally funded research grant focused on building capacity of local governments to connect small- and medium-sized farmers with low-income consumers.

Raja is a recipient of Western New York's 40 Under Forty Award given for professional success and commitment to the community, and the 2014 Dale Scholar Prize for excellence in urban and regional planning scholarship. Food systems and healthy community plans prepared in her graduate planning classes have won numerous local and national awards, including the Best Studio Award from the American Institute of Certified Planners.


As calls to strengthen communities' food systems continue to grow, local governments have begun to respond by deploying a host of planning and policy tools. Some are preparing comprehensive food systems plans; others are offering tax incentives to foster community food businesses. This is, some would argue, a heady time for food systems planning. Yet this turn warrants great caution and clarity about the purpose and means by which public policy is used to intervene in the food system. Overregulation and underinvestment — the current mode of local government intervention in the food system — is unlikely to address its problems. This presentation draws on a decade-long qualitative study of Buffalo, New York, and reviews trends nationally to illustrate the possibilities and pitfalls of using local government planning to strengthen food systems. It highlights the important, if challenging, role of community engagement in developing and implementing food policies and plans.

Cosponsored by the Department of City and Regional Planning, Cornell Engaged Learning + Research, and the Robert Van Nest Lecture Fund  


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