This toolkit was originally developed over the course of 2022 to guide Transforming Hawaiʻi’s Food Systems Together (THFST) initiative’s internal efforts to draft a statewide policy framework for Hawai’i. We were asked by THFST to attempt to answer two questions:

The primary questions driving this research were:

  • What are the “key planning elements” of most food system plans or charters?
  • What is the process by which other food systems plans and charters are developed?

To answer these questions, we read, summarized, and analyzed 25 plans and charters, interviewed 20 food systems  planners and academics, and conducted extensive desk research. Over the course of our research, we heard from food systems planners and groups across the country that there is a strong need for this research in their own work. Thus, starting in June of 2022, our team worked to translate original research into the publicly available resources that you see here.

Selection of Plans & Charters

Because our research was originally developed for a state-level planning initiative in Hawai’i, the majority of the plans and charters analyzed are at the state or inter-state level. These plans were all selected based on their inclusion in the 2021 report from Michigan State University’s Center for Regional Food Systems, “Participatory State and Regional Food System Plan and Charters in the U.S.: A Summary of Trends and National Directory.”

State- and inter-state plans and charters were selected along the following criteria:

  • Are systems-based and cross-sector (covering the entire food system),
  • Propose visions beyond 2021 or that are currently being updated (e.g., the 2005 California plan proposed a vision of the food system into 2030), and
  • Were participatory and collaboratively developed (those that crowdsourced ideas and attempted to mobilize stakeholders throughout the state using numerous strategies such as summits, working groups, etc.).”1

In addition, three city- and two county-level plans and charters were included based on internal relevance to the original project, and were chosen via snowball sampling. Given the small sample size, we recognize that this is not a comprehensive or representative list of city- and county-level planning efforts. As a result, these local plans are excluded  in any summary statistics, but remain within the database for the valuable insights that they may offer to other food systems initiatives. Future iterations of this project may strive for more robust inclusion of major city and county plans and charters. 

Finally, this toolkit includes any major plan updates as separate inputs from their original versions, on the assumption that their individual processes may still hold relevance to future initiatives. For example, Michigan’s 2022 update and Los Angeles’s 2017 update are included as separate entries from their original iterations.

Data Entry and Review

The two databases (plan catalog and recommendation database) were created in tandem with each other. The format and information of each of these databases were designed to answer the primary questions of our original research.

For initial data entry, plans and charters were read through by a primary researcher. The catalog of plans and charters was populated by distilling information available within the document, as well as online. The recommendation database was populated by entering, verbatim, all recommendations contained within each plan or charter. After both databases were filled, each entry was reviewed for accuracy by a secondary reviewer. To ensure complete accuracy within the catalog of plans and charters, individual entries were sent via email to key authors and/or coordinators for review and confirmation. We were able to reach 80% of authors for final review. 90% of state-level plans/charters were approved by their authors.  

Data Analysis

Recommendation Analysis

 In order to analyze content within the plan recommendations (n=420), a coding system of food system elements was created using an iterative process of thematic analysis across three phases of review. First, an initial list of food system elements was created, building upon the literature from the Food and Agriculture Organization and GAIN/JHU/FAO. We subsequently cross-referenced their articulated components of a food system across the literature that analyzes existing food systems plans and charters’ content. From here, we finalized an initial coding system by adding sub-categories (Karetny et al. 2022) and specifying social components around equity and justice (Mui et al. 2021). Using this list as a reference, all food systems plan and charter recommendations were subsequently reviewed. Food systems elements consistent with the literature were identified, and new food systems elements found within each plan and charter were highlighted. Following this, a complete list of “Key Planning Elements” (KPEs) was refined, consisting of 16 key planning elements and 65 subtags (a complete list of codes can be found below). Recommendations were then analyzed and cross-coded based on this finalized list of “Key Planning Elements” by a team of three independent reviewers. When there were disputes about how to code, the reviewer team would meet to form a consensus. Consistent with the interdisciplinary nature of food systems, each recommendation is coded across all Key Planning Elements.

Once the coding was completed, the KPEs were translated into a visual map to highlight common points of connection between goals and recommendations within city, county, and state plans and charters.

Lastly, meta data on KPEs was generated by finding “frequency” data on each KPE’s use within state-level plans and charters. This included 1) information on the proportion of state-level plans/charters that made recommendations tagged with each KPE at least once, and 2) information on the proportion of all recommendations tagged with each KPE, both within each state plan/charter and across all state plans/charters. As our “n” size for plans and charters from municipalities and counties was low (n = 5), they were not included in any summary statistics (see “Selection of plans & charters”).