Municipal Level Food Systems Planning for the Impacts of Climate Change
Climate change poses significant risks to the food system, directly impacting food security and disproportionately affecting vulnerable populations. This study examines the critical role of local municipalities in planning for the effects of climate change on food systems through the case of the New River Valley, located in Southwestern Virginia. This study utilizes a qualitative participatory research design, including semi-structured interviews and focus groups with both food system and municipality stakeholders in the New River Valley region. Guided by Stroh's Systemic Change Process, the study seeks to advance climate adaptation planning in the region through the implementation of the first stage of the process, called "building a foundation for change." This stage involves identifying key stakeholders, getting them involved in the process, and establishing common ground. Through facilitation, stakeholders build capacity for systems thinking with a focus on collaboration. The findings of this study will inform the ongoing efforts of the Blacksburg Sustainability Department in planning for climate change transformation at a local level. This research is significant in that it addresses the gap in the literature around how municipalities are planning for climate resiliency in the food system, provides insight into the use of interviews and focus groups to bridge the creative tension gap in collaborative problem-solving through a systems thinking approach, and informs policy decisions made by local government. This study's findings have the potential to inform community-engaged efforts to plan for climate change while envisioning a more resilient and fair food system.