Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan Focuses on Healthy Food for All

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
pittsburgh food action plan

Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series

Policy name: Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan

Overview: The Pittsburgh Food Policy Council has released a food action plan focusing on equity, sustainability, nutrition, and food security for Allegheny County and beyond. 

Location: Allegheny County, PA

Population: 1.2 million

Food policy category: Food insecurity, sustainable agriculture, food supply and distribution, food waste, nutrition

Program goals: To create a regional food system that focuses on equity and supports public health, natural resources, and the economy. 

How it works: The food action plan has five goals with 150 strategies for achieving them. The goals are, as stated on the action plan website:

  1. Enhance coordination and communication among existing food systems’ resources and agencies;
  2. Center the roles of equity, sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship in a healthy food system;
  3. Support a robust regional food economy that benefits all;
  4. Improve food security and public health by increasing availability and accessibility of nutritious, high-quality, affordable and locally-sourced food;
  5. Build community power based on the principle of food sovereignty (the right to nutritious and culturally-appropriate food) for all residents.

The plan was released during a Zoom meeting of more than 120 participants who identified nine main action steps:

  1. Build community leadership and food sovereignty in order to support community efforts to address food apartheid (which addresses the social and racial inequities that factor into food systems and food access).  
  2. Evaluate how governmental decision-making processes impact food access. 
  3. Advocate for more affordable public transportation. 
  4. Maximize the scope and impact of governmental anti-hunger programs. 
  5. Support food entrepreneurship by addressing the barriers faced by women, immigrants, people of color and other marginalized communities. 
  6. Advocate for living wages and for human rights for food systems workers. 
  7. Leverage the purchasing power of large institutions to support regional producers.
  8. Improve access to land, land ownership and capital for farmers, especially new and beginning ones, farmers of color and farmers from other marginalized communities. 
  9. Secure financial support for regional and community food systems development.

Smaller working groups have been meeting over the past few months to develop plans for addressing each action step, and more details will be announced in the new year. 

Progress to date: The PFPC began working on the action plan in 2017 and released it at their monthly meeting on September 29, 2020.  

Why it is important: The COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice issues of 2020 have helped to shed a light on the inequities and inequalities in the Greater Pittsburgh area food systems.

Twenty percent of Pittsburgh residents are food insecure, meaning they do not have access to an adequate amount of healthy food. Those who are most vulnerable to food insecurity include low-income residents and people of color. In Allegheny County, 13 percent of residents live below the poverty line, and approximately one-third of Pittsburgh residents live at or near the poverty line. The demographic groups associated with a higher risk of being poor include those with single mothers, people of color, people with disabilities, children, and the elderly. 

Furthermore, 30 to 40 percent of all food that is produced in America goes to waste. This exacerbates the unequal access to food because those who can afford to buy enough food often buy more than they need and end up wasting it, while others struggle on a daily basis to make sure their families have something to eat. 

There are many social, economic, and racial factors that contribute to food insecurity and related health inequalities. The Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan has been designed to address these underlying issues in order to improve food access, nutrition, health, and overall well-being. 

Program/Policy initiated: The action plan was released on September 29, 2020. 

Point of contact: 
Dawn Plummer, Executive Director
Pittsburgh Food Policy Council

Similar practices: Other locales that have, or have previously had, a food action plan include Santa Barbara County, California; Mendocino County, California; Columbus and Franklin Counties, Ohio; and Seattle, Washington.  

Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted. 

Learn more: 


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