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Insights into the government's role in food system policy making: improving access to healthy, local food alongside other priorities

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journal contribution
posted on 21.05.2021, 16:19 by Jessica Wegener, Kim D Raine, Rhona M Hanning
Government actors have an important role to play in creating healthy public policies and supportive environments to facilitate access to safe, affordable, nutritious food. The purpose of this research was to examine Waterloo Region (Ontario, Canada) as a case study for “what works” with respect to facilitating access to healthy, local food through regional food system policy making. Policy and planning approaches were explored through multi-sectoral perspectives of: (a) the development and adoption of food policies as part of the comprehensive planning process; (b) barriers to food system planning; and (c) the role and motivation of the Region’s public health and planning departments in food system policy making. Forty-seven in-depth interviews with decision makers, experts in public health and planning, and local food system stakeholders provided rich insight into strategic government actions, as well as the local and historical context within which food system policies were developed. Grounded theory methods were used to identify key overarching themes including: “strategic positioning”, “partnerships” and “knowledge transfer” and related sub-themes (“aligned agendas”, “issue framing”, “visioning” and “legitimacy”). A conceptual framework to illustrate the process and features of food system policy making is presented and can be used as a starting point to engage multi-sectoral stakeholders in plans and actions to facilitate access to healthy food.

Keywords: food policy; community food security; public health; government; land use planning; food access