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Rural Wealth Creation: Exploring Interactions Between Food Systems and Community Development

As urban consumers become more interested in their food and where it comes from, communities are increasingly integrating food into mainstream planning and policymaking. One of the common innovations is the use of Food Policy Councils, groups which bring together diverse industry, government, and non-profit partners to address challenges in the food supply chain, and to capitalize on new knowledge and expertise.

While the councils help to educate urban citizens and provide a place for innovation, they often do not include membership from rural populations—the people who grow and raise most of the food. An opportunity exists in this space to better understand how urban policies can support urban communities, while also providing opportunities for their rural providers. This is the goal of the CSU food system program.

Northern Colorado provides an exciting venue to investigate the challenges of urban and rural food co-development. In October 2017, the City and County of Denver released its Denver Food Vision, a program facilitated by the Denver Sustainable Food Policy Council. The program represents the City and the County’s first ever long-term strategic plan for food, and incorporates 12 achievable goals under pillars of Inclusivity, Health, Vibrancy, and Resilience. Colorado State University’s food research system team plans to use this innovative new program as a case study to develop a framework, models, and tools that will aid in the understanding of how urban food policy works. The team will study the impacts of this integrated food policy plan on rural social, political, cultural, physical, financial, natural, and human issues—and will focus especially on evaluating the inevitable trade-offs that will occur.

The goal of this research is to use observations and data to provide cities, regions, and communities with the tools they need to make educated decisions around food-systems community development. The resulting tools will focus on supporting enhanced discussion and collaborations across rural-urban lines, allowing for partnerships and educations for city-dwellers and rural communities alike.


    What are the impacts of urban food policies and initiatives on provisioning producers and their communities?


    • Develop a theoretical framework of the linkages between food supply chain actors and natural, built, financial, cultural, social, political, and human and natural capitals.
    • Build a model of Denver’s food system, including its provisioning producers and their communities, using the best available primary and secondary data. Ensure that the model is scalable and replicable.
    • Test trade-offs associated with policy interventions and impacts on regional capital assets.
    • Extend best practices and results from framework, models and tools, to researcher, policymaker, and practitioner communities to support more informed and effective food system policies that better build bridges between urban and rural places. This includes supporting the research arm of the National Western Center in Denver, Colorado.

CONTACT: Becca Jablonski,