Dr. Erin Lentz and Raj Patel: A Balanced, Food Systems Plan for the City of Austin

How does an urban city like Austin develop a food systems plan that enables economic development, environmental improvement, and public health– while balancing often-exclusionary concerns of elites? The City of Austin calls upon the graduate students of the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, led by CHASP faculty associate Dr. Erin Lentz and Raj Patel, to engage in a Neighborhood Food Planning Process with a goal of developing Austin’s first Food System Strategic Plan. The City will use the team in piloting the program in North Central Austin to inform how to expand the Neighborhood Food System Planning process city-wide.


During this Policy Research Project (PRP), the students in the study will begin to identify ways to support inclusivity in Austin’s Food System Strategic Plan. First, these students will identify and synthesize lessons learned from leading model cities across the US and beyond, about how to create and foster an environment in which bold citizen-driven transformations in the food system can happen. Prof. Erin Lentz emphasized, “…developing a toolkit for the City of Austin is the real goal.”

Second, students will work closely with City of Austin residents, civil society actors, local policymakers, and government officials to generate a tailored set of inclusive policy recommendations that are appropriate to Austin’s unique context. Edwin Marty, the City’s first Sustainable Food Policy Manager, has stressed that the most vital step here is listening and reaching out to community members about their true needs and wants.

Future years’ topics for the PRP will be driven both by the City’s demands and those of the City’s residents as revealed in the first year’s work.

UPDATE 3/15/16: Op-Ed in Austin American Statesman: A Word to FLOTUS: Let’s All Move

UPDATE 7/10/16: Op-Ed in Austin American Statesman: Serving Austin’s hungry residents requires listening to them