Published June 19, 2014
Over the past decade, the School of Architecture and Planning has moved to the forefront of food systems planning, led by the work of Samina Raja, associate professor of urban and regional planning and head of the only research laboratory in the United States dedicated to the field.
Now the school will train the next generation of food system planners through the country’s first doctoral fellowship in food system planning. The Jerome L. Kaufman fellowship honors the intellectual legacy of Jerome L. Kaufman, FAICP, widely regarded as the “father of food systems planning.” Through the school’s PhD program in urban and regional planning, Kaufman Fellows will examine the role of planning in building healthy and equitable food systems. The three-year, fully supported program will have fellows work directly with Raja and her Food Systems Planning and Healthy Communities Lab.
Raja says Kaufman, who recently passed away, was a visionary practitioner, scholar and teacher whose career included 30 years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “He had a knack for raising questions about issues ahead of their time, from planning ethics to central-city planning to his most notable legacy, food systems planning,” says Raja, a protégé of Kaufman as a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin.
Indeed, it wasn’t until the late 1990s when the food system even entered into planning discussions, largely due to the work of Kaufman. Today, it is a prominent issue for the professional planning community as well as local governments and academic institutions across the U.S.
Raja, of course, has been a major force behind the field’s emergence. Her research focuses on the influence of the food system and built environment on obesity and physical activity. Since 2003, the Food Lab has tracked the impact of urban agriculture on children’s health in the Buffalo region and is now working on a related study with the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences that has received over a million dollars in grants from the National Institutes of Health.