Evaluating Food Systems in Comprehensive Planning: Is the Mississippi Gulf Coast Planning for Food?
The Mississippi Gulf Coast is famous for its shrimp, oysters, and crabs. Seafood is an essential part of both the culture and the diet of coastal residents. The last five years have been hard on the seafood industry, due first to Hurricane Katrina, then the national recession, and then the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In the five years following the hurricane, all of the cities and counties on the Mississippi Gulf Coast prepared comprehensive plans covering the future of the land use, public facilities, and housing for the community for 20 or more years. This paper examines the degree to which food systems have been incorporated into the comprehensive plans developed on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. It finds that food systems have not been adequately integrated into the plans. The comprehensive plans for the region begin to touch on food systems, but fail to create a factual basis to support planning for those systems, such as identification of the proportion of retail food establishments that accept food assistance programs. They set limited goals to support food systems and propose limited implementation measures in support of them. While the region as a whole has not yet planned for food systems, there are instances where communities are examining the future of food. This article concludes by offering recommendations on how communities can improve their plans relative to food systems as they move into their next phase of regional planning.
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