Food is a sustaining and enduring necessity. Yet among the basic essentials for life — air, water, shelter, and food — only food has been absent over the years as a focus of serious professional planning interest. This is a puzzling omission because, as a discipline, planning marks its distinctiveness by being comprehensive in scope and attentive to the temporal dimensions and spatial interconnections among important facets of community life.
Several reasons explain why planners have paid less attention to food issues when compared with long-standing planning topics such as economic development, transportation, the environment, and housing. Among these reasons are:
A view that the food system — representing the flow of products from production, through processing, distribution, consumption, and the management of wastes, and associated processes — only indirectly touches on the built environment, a principal focus of planning's interest;
a sense that the food system isn't broken, so why fix it; and,
a perception that the food system meets neither of two important conditions under which planners act — i.e., dealing with public goods like air and water; and planning for services and facilities in which the private sector is unwilling to invest, such as public transit, sewers, highways, and parks.