Samina Raja

Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning
Director, Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab
Associate Dean for Research and Inclusive Excellence, School of Architecture and Planning

Samina Raja.


Samina Raja

233C Hayes Hall

(716) 829-5881


Research Lab web site:

Food Systems Planning and
Healthy Communities Lab


Dr. Raja’s research focuses on planning and design for sustainable food systems and healthy communities.

Dr. Samina Raja’s research program focuses on understanding the role of planning and policy in building sustainable food systems and healthy communities. She is the Principal Investigator of the Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab (the “Food Lab”) where much of her research unfolds with the engagement and collaboration of an outstanding research team. In partnership with collaborators nationwide, Dr. Raja is currently directing Growing Food Connections, a comprehensive five-year initiative funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to build capacity of local governments to strengthen food systems.  

Her additional research interests include the role of planning in communities experiencing conflict (she is especially interested in the region of Kashmir in South Asia), and the fiscal dimensions of urban and regional planning.

Dr. Raja’s research is published in leading planning and health journals. She is the lead author of the Planners Guide to Community and Regional Food Planning: Transforming Food Environments, Building Healthy Communities, one of the earliest guidance monographs on food systems planning published by the national American Planning Association. 


B.Sc. (civil engineering), College of Engineering and Technology, Jamia Millia University, New Delhi
M. Planning (housing), School of Architecture and Planning, New Delhi
Ph.D. (urban and regional planning), University of Wisconsin-Madison


Dr. Raja teaches a combination of required and elective courses in the graduate and undergraduate programs. Her course offerings include food systems planning, research design (for doctoral students only), built environment and health, planning studio for graduate students, and research methods.

Public Service

Dr. Raja's service to the community and the planning profession is closely linked to her research interests. She works with the national American Planning Association (APA) to bring the importance of community and regional food planning to the attention of practicing planners nationwide.  Dr. Raja serves on the steering committee of the Food Interest Group (FIG) of the American Planning Association whose mission is to advance the practice of food systems planning within the profession.

Locally, Dr. Raja works with a number of partners in Buffalo and surrounding communities to advance the state of food systems planning and policy. She has worked closely for the last 10 years with the Massachusetts Avenue Project to document how their community-based efforts can strengthen food systems and inform food policy and planning. She is a steering committee member of the Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities-Buffalo coalition, led by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc., which strives to promote policy and environmental change to promote healthy eating and active living in Buffalo. She currently serves on the Buffalo-Erie Food Policy Council, the first city-county food policy council in New York State. 

Selected Publications

  • Raja, Samina, Jill Clark, Kim Hodgson, and Julia Freedgood. 2018. “Reflexive and Inclusive: Reimagining Local Government Engagement in Food Systems.” Editorial, Special Issue on Local Government Work in Food Systems. Journal of Agriculture, Community Development, and Food Systems. 8 (Suppl. 2), 1-10.
  • Mui, Yeeli, Kimberley Hodgson,Maryam Khojasteh, and Samina Raja. 2018. Rejoining the planning and public health fields to strengthen local and regional food systems. Special Issue on Local Government Work in Food Systems. Journal of Agriculture, Community Development, and Food Systems. 8 (Suppl. 2), 73-93.
  • Raja, Samina and Jennifer Whittaker.  2018. “Community Food Infrastructure: A Vital Consideration for Planning Healthy Communities.” In Beatley, Timothy, Reuben Rainey, and Carla Jones. Healthy Environments, Healing Spaces: Current Practice and Future Directions in Health and Design. University of Virginia Press.
  • Raja, Samina, Jennifer Whittaker, Enjoli Hall, Kimberley Hodgson, Maryam Khojasteh, and Jeanne Leccese. Growing Food Connections through Planning: Lessons from the United States. In Integrating Food into Urban Planning. United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In Press.
  • Raja, Samina, Kevin Morgan, and Enjoli Hall. 2017. “Planning for Equitable Urban and Regional Food Systems.” Editorial, Special Issue on Planning and Design for Urban and Regional Food Systems: Equity, Justice and Power. Built Environment. 43 (3): 309-314.
  • Judelsohn, Alexandra, H Orom, I Kim, A Sa, H Khan, R DeVito, and Samina Raja. 2017. “Planning the City of Good (and New) Neighbors: Refugees’ Food Experiences in Buffalo, New York.” Built Environment. 43 (3): 402-416.
  • Clark, Jill, J. Freedgood, A. Irish, K Hodgson, and Samina Raja. 2017. “Fail to Include, Plan to Exclude: Reflections on Local Governments Readiness for Building Equitable Food Systems.” Built Environment. 43 (3): 315-327.
  • Whittaker, Jennifer, Jill K. Clark, Sarah SanGiovannni, and Samina Raja. 2017. Planning for Food Systems: Community-University Partnerships for Food-Systems Transformation. Metro Universities Journal. 28 (1): 7-26.
  • Raja, Samina and Chunyuan Diao. 2016. Community-Led Urban Agriculture Policy: A View from the United States. Urban Agriculture Magazine, 31:18-24.
  • Raja, Samina, Femke Hoekstra, Cecilia Delgado, Rene van Veenhuizen. 2016. Editorial: Community Involvement in Urban Planning and Policy Development to Strengthen City and Regional Food Systems. Urban Agriculture Magazine. 31:4-9.
  • Clark, Jill, Molly Bean, Samina Raja, Scott Loveridge, Julia Freedgood, and Kimberley Hodgson. 2016. Cooperative Extension and Food System Change: Goals, Strategies, and Resources. Agriculture and Human Values. 2016:1-16. doi:10.1007/s10460-016-9715-2
  • Baek, Sora, Maryam Khojasteh, Nathan Attard, and Samina Raja. 2016. "Acculturating into (In)active Commuting to School: Differences among Children of Foreign-born and US-born parents." Children, Youth, and Environment. Available on-line.
  • Raj, Subhashni, Samina Raja, and BreeAna Dukes. 2016. “Beneficial But Constrained: Impact of urban agriculture on consumption of fruits and vegetables among youth.” Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 2016:
  • Khojasteh, Maryam and Samina Raja. 2016. “Agents of Change: The Role of Immigrants in Creating Healthier Food Environments.” Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition. 2016:1-29.
  • Raja, Samina, Justin Booth, J. Travis Norton, Beverly Crowell, Jessie Hersher Gouck, and Kari Bonaro. 2015. “Promoting Active Commuting to School through Environmental and Policy Supports in Buffalo, New York.” Public Health Management and Practice. 21:S110-S115, May/June 2015.
  • Baek, Solhyon, Samina Raja, Jiyoung Park, Leonard Epstein, Li Yin, and James Roemmich. 2015. “Park Design and Children’s Active Play: A Micro-Scale Spatial Analysis of Intensity of Play in Olmsted’s Delaware Park.” Environment and Planning B.
  • Raja, Samina, Diane Picard, Solhyon Baek, and Cristina Delgado. 2014. “Rustbelt Radicalism: A Decade of Food Systems Planning Practice in Buffalo, New York.” Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development. 4(4): 173-189.
  • Feda, Denise, April Seelbinder, Solhyon Baek, Samina Raja, Li Yin, and James N Roemmich. 2014. Neighbourhood Parks and Reduction in Stress among Adolescents: Results from Buffalo, New York. Indoor and Built Environment. (24) 5: 631-639
  • Raja, Samina. 2013. “A Review of “Sustainable Food Planning: Evolving Theory and Practice.” Journal of the American Planning Association. 79 (3):3-4.
  • Yin, Li, Raja, Samina, Xiao Li, Yuan Lai, Leonard Epstein, and James Roemmich. 2013. “Neighborhood for Playing: Using GPS, GIS, and Accelerometry to Delineate Areas within which Youth are Physically Active.” Urban Studies. 50 (14): 1-18.
  • Epstein, Leonard, Samina Raja, Tinuke Oluyomi Daniel, Rocco A. Paluch, Denise E. Wilfley, Brian E. Saelens, and James N. Roemmich, Ph.D. 2012. “The Built Environment Moderates Effects of Family-Based Childhood Obesity Treatment over 2 Years.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 44 (2): 248-58.
  • Improving Health in the United States: The Role of Health Impact Assessment. The National Academies Press, 2011. [Authors in alpha order: D. Bear, R. Bhatia, S. Cantor, B. Cave, A. Diez Roux, C. Dora, J. Fielding, J Graff Zivin, Richard Jackson, J. Levy, J. Quint, S. Raja, A. Schulz, and A. Wernham.]
  • Raja, Samina and Niraj Verma. 2010. “Got Perspective? A Theoretical View of Fiscal Impact Analysis.” Planning Theory. 9 (2): 126-136.
  • Raja, Samina, Li Yin, James Roemmich, Changxing Ma, Leonard Epstein, Pavan Yadav, and Alex Ticoalu. 2010. “Food Environment, Built environment, and Women’s BMI: Evidence from Erie County, New York.”  Journal of Planning Education and Research.  29: 444-460.
  • Raja, Samina, Angelika Breinlich, and Aidan Kallas. 2010. “Partnerships to Promote Healthy Eating in School Environments: Lessons from Buffalo, New York.” Children, Youth, and Environment. 20 (2).
  • Raja, Samina, Michael Ball, Justin Booth, Philip Haberstro, and Katherine Veith. 2009. “Leveraging neighborhood-scale change for policy and program reform in Buffalo, New York.” Special issue on Active Living by Design. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 37 (6S).
  • Raja, Samina, Branden Born, and Jessica Kozlowski Russell. 2008. A Planner's Guide to Community and Regional Food Planning: Transforming Food Environments, Building Healthy Communities. Planning Advisory Service (PAS) Series. Number 554. Chicago, IL: American Planning Association.
  • Raja, Samina, Changxing Ma, and Pavan Yadav. 2008. “Beyond food deserts: Measuring and mapping racial disparities in the food environment.” Journal of Planning Education and Research. 27 (4): 469-482. 
  • Roemmich, James, Leonard Epstein, Samina Raja, and Li Yin.  2007. “The neighborhood and home environments: Disparate relationships with physical activity and sedentary behaviors in youth.” Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 33 (1): 29-38
  • Epstein, Leonard, Elizabeth Handley, Kelly K. Dearing, David D. Cho, James Roemmich, Rocco Paluch, Samina Raja, Youngju Pak, and Bonnie Spring.  2006.  “Purchases of food in youth: Influence of Price and Income.” Psychological Science. 17 (1): 82-89
  • Roemmich, James, Leonard Epstein, Samina Raja, Li Yin, Jodie Robinson, and Dana Winiewicz.  2006. “Association of access to parks and recreational facilities with the physical activity of young children.” Preventive Medicine. (43) 6: 437-441
  • Raja, Samina. 2013 (2006). “Kashmir” In Murer and Reveron (eds.) Flashpoints in the War on Terrorism: Understanding the Hot Spots that Stoke the Fire. New York, NY: Routledge
  • Raja, Samina. 2006. “Seeking Common Ground in Smart Growth and Food System Planning: Lessons from the Food for Growth Studio” in Teaching Smart Growth at Colleges and Universities: A Set of Model Course Prospectuses. US Environmental Planning Agency.

Selected activities, honors and awards

  • 2014 William R. And June Dale Prize for Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning Scholarship
  • Center for Whole Communities Fellow, 2012
  • 40 Under Forty , Class of 2008, 17th Annual Business First of WNY
  • 'Food for Growth' graduate studio taught by Dr. Raja won several awards including the 2005 national award from the American Institute of Certified Planners.