Strengthening Atlanta's Food System
Atlanta has made great strides towards establishing a grassroots, local food systems over the past five years. Barriers to growing and selling food are being removed, public safety regulations are being implemented, and a vibrant advocacy culture continues to educate the city's residents on the importance of locally and regionally produced food. In "A Food System Analysis of the City of Atlanta," Seanna Berry (MCRP '13) analyzes the positive growth of Atlanta's current food system, investigates best practices in the United States, and maps the collaborative process necessary for Atlanta to achieve its food access goals.
Berry's analysis of Atlanta's food production, processing, distribution, access, and resource recovery acknowledges recent institutional progress and identifies several gaps and barriers that still exist in city-wide policy and knowledge. While Atlanta is home to over 165 community gardens and numerous urban farming enterprises, many farmers are hamstrung by laws that limit the selling of food on-site in residential areas. Additionally, writes Berry, "Personal gardens are neither expressly permitted or prohibited." Ambiguity in the law, restrictions on composting, and a gap in knowledge about the amount and location of publically owned, vacant land in Atlanta suitable for farming, constrains what appears to be an incipient, large-scale movement.
To address these issues, Berry outlines seven priorities to advance a robust and healthy food system. While the majority of the priorities revolve around land use analysis and the mapping of the current food system (food asset mapping, cost of community services study, land inventory, development of an urban agricultural incubator site, and food asset and access mapping), specific policy recommendations and educational components anchor the list. Berry lays the ground work for many of her recommendations through preliminary mapping and goes on to identify funding sources and organizations that are positioned to advocate for long-term change. As Atlanta’s local foods movement steps away from the moniker of “emerging” and seeks to gain mainstream traction, Berry writes that now is the time for the local and state governments to join in creating an integrated and healthy food system.
Seanna Berry is a 2013 graduate of Georgia Tech's School of City and Regional Planning, and advising for her applied research paper was conducted by Professor Michael Elliott.