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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Regional Planning

Degree Type

Master of Regional Planning (M.R.P.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The alternative food movement claims varied goals such as building environmental sustainability, strengthening local economies, and promoting health equity, yet critics argue that the movement’s transformative potential is threatened by a lack of shared vision. Literature suggests that community-based multi-stakeholder coalitions are a useful tool for building consensus around food systems futures. But what kinds of futures? Home Grown Springfield is a school food initiative aimed at reducing hunger in Springfield, MA by serving healthy, homemade, and locally-sourced meals via the Culinary and Nutrition Center, a brand-new full-service commercial kitchen and storage facility. This qualitative case study examines the engagement process of the Culinary and Nutrition Center’s Advisory Council, a multi-stakeholder coalition convened in 2018 to guide the project. The engagement process was envisioned by the Springfield Food Policy Council, Springfield Public Schools, and Sodexo, and funded by the Henry P. Kendall Foundation. Research findings suggests that engagement of diverse actors promotes expanded project visions, which results in more holistic, progressive, and potentially transformative food systems change. In addition, it reveals challenges around the process of authentic community engagement and the dynamics of power-sharing between project leaders and community members. This research has multiple objectives: 1) to document the first year of the Advisory Council’s process for its own reflection; 2) to demonstrate the need for planners to help facilitate diverse cross-sector engagement for more holistic and progressive regional planning; and 3) to highlight the critical need for community leadership and decision-making in planning for sustainable and equitable community development.


First Advisor

Mark Hamin

Second Advisor

Catherine Sands

Third Advisor

Krista Harper