Food Systems Planning

Food Systems 101

Food systems are the cycle of activities that broadly involve the production, processing, transportation, retail, consumption, and disposal of food. There has been a growing interest and recognized need by communities to strategically plan their food systems to bring about positive economic, environmental, and social change. 

Food Systems in Region J

What is the need for food systems planning in Region J? 

  • The agriculture industry is an integral part of Region J - Food systems planning provides an opportunity to better support the agricultural sector while simultaneously leveraging opportunities to enhance efficiencies in related sectors such as AgTech, agritourism, and the food and beverage industry. 
  • The urban footprint in Region J is growing - Food systems planning can be used to implement ordinances that support the production of foods in underutilized urban lands and preserve rural farmlands from overdevelopment. 
  • There is a need for equitable access to nutritious foods amongst our growing population - Planning for equitable access to nutritious foods can assist in improving regional health outcomes for all populations, which can lead to an overall more productive workforce and vibrant region. 
  • Disasters are becoming more prevalent in Region J - Whether experiencing a natural disaster such as flooding or droughts, or an economic shock like the coronavirus pandemic, the frequency and increased severity derived from regional upsets continues to have long-term and detrimental impacts on all food cycle activities in Region J. Through food systems planning, we can work to create more resilient and efficient regional supply chains and mitigate damaging impacts exposed by regional upsets 
  • Interested in learning more? - Check out this link 

Equity and Food Systems

Access to healthy and affordable foods, farmland, and livable and stable jobs within the region's food systems varies drastically across the region socially, economically, and geographically. It is essential to address disparities and prevalent barriers to access healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food while planning for a more sustainable, equitable, and prosperous future.   

Equity and Food Systems Statistics

  • In North Carolina, 21.8% percent of black households and 18% of Latinx households are food insecure compared to 8.8% of white households. - USDA 2017 Report on Food Insecurity, 2015-2017 (3-Year Average)
  • Black farmers account for only 1.3%, or just over 45,000, of the nation's 3.4 million farmers and own just 0.52% of the nation's total farmland. In 1920, there were nearly 1 million black farmers. - USDA 2017 Census on Agriculture

What is TJCOG’s Role in Food Systems Planning?

Triangle J Council of Governments is committed to assisting with planning for local and regional food systems across our seven-county region. Through this process, TJCOG can help communities and the region identify opportunities and strengths to support local, sustainable food systems to increase access to food and serve as an economic driver. Our services allow us to:

  • Educate
  • Conduct research, evaluation, and planning
  • Convene - Facilitate connections to assets and information
  • Build capacity for local governments and partners
  • Provide technical assistance - grant writing, administration, strategic asset building/mapping, and more!
  • Leverage local/regional food systems planning as an economic driver
  • Foster partnerships
  • Support equitable food systems planning efforts throughout the Triangle J Region 


Communities across the country support local food production by adopting food-specific zoning ordinances and policies. Below is information on different types of food systems ordinances and model/sample ordinances.


Apiculture (Beekeeping)

Apiculture or beekeeping policies allow for the greater usage of beehives on residential properties. This can lead to more local production of honey, beeswax, and also provide opportunities for area farmers to contract with beehive owners for pollination purposes.


Model/Sample Ordinances
North Carolina


Community Gardens

Community Gardens are a shared plot of land on public or private lots where fresh produce and plants can be grown. Community Gardens allow for neighborhoods and/or organizations to work together to grow foods that can be used for individual and family purposes or donated to food banks. 


Model Sample/Ordinances
North Carolina


Local Food Procurement Policies

Local food procurement policies are meant to support local economies by ensuring that public agencies are purchasing, providing, and/or in any other way making local foods available. This could be in the form of providing a certain percentage of food for a public event from local vendors to providing locally sourced foods in government offices or institutions like schools and prisons.


Model/Sample Ordinances
North Carolina



Poultry ordinance allows for poultry or fowl to be grown on residential plots, typically in backyards. Over the past decade, more poultry ordinances have been passed as popularity has grown. In areas where poultry is allowed to be raised on residential plots, owners are typically limited to keep poultry as pets and for egg-laying purposes only, not for slaughter.


Model/Sample Ordinances
North Carolina




COVID-19 and Food Systems

COVID-19 has created challenges in all aspects of life; particularly for farmers, local restaurants, and small businesses. Additionally, the region's most marginalized populations, such as the elderly, low-wealth, youth, and disabled communities continue to experience increased barriers to food access, which is an essential basic need. This list is in no way exhaustive of regional resources to obtain nutritious foods, so please reach out to TJCOG or your local/county government for additional resources. Some resources suggested below are also ways for producers and consumers to support local farm businesses.   


Have a project idea, need technical assistant, or want to talk about food systems in general?


Lindsay Whitson 

Community and Economic Development Program Manger 



Farm Census Statistics 

Economic Development through Food Justice 

Inequities in the Food System 

Funding Opportunities 

USDA Grants & Opportunities

USDA COVID-19 Resources & Grants

USDA Farm to School Grant Program