North Carolina’s city of Asheville is the most recent town in our nation to create a Food Action Plan. These sensible strategies address difficult issues, such as food deserts, community health, food insecurity, nutrition knowledge deficits, barriers to local food production and distribution, as well as food sovereignty. The plan was approved 6-0 on January 21, 2013 by the city council; this legislation will play an active role in improving healthy food access, and will also help to build a more sustainable local food infrastructure.

Asheville Food Desert map

The call to action started after a 2011 report highlighted the dire food security issues that the Asheville area faces. Luckily our region has a long history of food activism, and people in the region were ready to take on the many food security challenges that we face. Soon after the release of the report, this collection of food activist volunteers banded together to form the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council (ABFPC) to flesh out the City of Asheville Food Action Plan.


Asheville is home to a vibrant arts, food, beer, yoga, wild foods, farmers markets and metaphysics scene, but ironically a city that is consumed with health, happiness, and well-being still suffers with the same food security issues that plague the rest of the country. A recent USDA  report found that 1 out of 6 of our residents suffer from insecurity, and only 58% of the population in the area has access to healthy foods.

Hopefully Asheville’s enthusiasm for food security issues will not stop with this approved document, and this action plan will translate to real changes.


Below is the full transcript of Asheville’s Food Action Plan via thAsheville Buncombe Food Policy Council:


Asheville-Buncombe Vision

  1. Everyone in Asheville and Buncombe County has access to healthy, nutritious food at all times, and as a county, we are nutritionally self-sufficient, meaning we can sustain our population’s nutritional needs year-round with locally grown, processed and stored healthy food.

  2. All communities are empowered with the education and access to resources and information they need to innovate and implement their own strategies for food security and resiliency.  Our community understands healthy food to be: grown locally according to organic and permaculture principles, from seeds and plants that are not genetically modified and in a manner that builds the fertility of the soil.
  3. We recognize that intact, biodiverse and healthy forest ecosystems provide abundant food and clean water in perpetuity.  Furthermore our ecosystems and agricultural systems depend upon a reliable source of clean water.  Therefore we collaborate with neighboring counties to protect, conserve, and sustainably harvest forest products, surface water and our aquifer within the French Broad Watershed, meaning we only harvest at a rate slower than or equal to what nature can replenish and in a manner that preserves biodiversity.
  4. Buncombe County’s agriculture-related economy thrives and ensures social and ecological sustainability, meaning we work together to meet universal human needs and to protect and maintain the health, diversity and abundance of life in our bioregion.
  5. Everyone enjoys the permanent legal right to food sovereignty – to cultivate, harvest, save seed, process, sell, share and trade food and have access to clean water, air and land to grow that food – in order to thrive and empower his/her resilience.
  6. City and County government serve in partnership with the people to maintain and continually regenerate Buncombe County as a national example of Foodtopia* through strategic policies, appropriations, programs and mandates.
*  Definition of Foodtopia: a place where our foodshed and related economy are characterized by abundance, social justice, environmental sustainability, regenerative culture and resilient communities.


Long Term Goals


  1. Establish a baseline of local food access within the next three to six months.

    1. Inventory nutritional access county-wide.  Who does and does not have access to locally grown food and sufficient nutrition and for those who do not, why not?
    2. Inventory food resources (food growing, processing and storage) county-wide.
    3. Inventory emergency access within Asheville and county-wide.  How much food is available in the event of an interruption to our food supply and how long will it last?  Where is it being stored and how is it distributed?  How much more food would communities within our county need to grow and store to feed our population for a week in the event of an emergency?
  2. Identify and implement ways to increase local food production for local consumption by at least 5% per year over the baseline, with a minimum of 2% of the total being synthetic-chemical-free (organic with or without certification) and non-GMO food, and with a goal to be 100% nutritionally self-sufficient by 2035.
  3. Identify ways to increase access for those who currently do not have it and implement those initiatives to increase food access to those populations by at least 5% per year.
  4. Baseline the amount of locally grown food being served in City and County Schools.  Develop policies and programs to ensure that all City and County schools serve locally grown food as a minimum of 5% of their total food offerings by the end of the 2014 school year, increasing 5% per year thereafter.
  5. Develop a plan and implement it through public-private partnerships to ensure a minimum of a one week’s supply of emergency food for the entire county’s population in any season of the year.
  6. Identify economic development opportunities related to agriculture that will enable our region to become nutritionally self-sufficient and economically robust and provide incentives to increase ag-related income by 2% per year over the next 10 years.
  7. Track progress toward increased food production, access, and agriculture-related economic development and to report it out to the public and to policy makers regularly. Publish and widely distribute an annual report card on our Food Action Plan vision, goals and priorities as part of a city and county sustainability report.


Top Priorities 


    1. County/ASAP data aggregated by FPC/grantees:  Create a baseline of quantity and type of food-growing in Buncombe County. (Asset Mapping)

    2. County/ASAP data aggregated by FPC/grantees: Create a baseline of quantity and type of food processing facilities to ensure long term food access across all communities within Buncombe County.  Add two processing facilities in two areas of highest need, if this proves to be . (Asset Mapping)
    3. FPC: Review the County/City emergency plan to respond to short-term food crisis. Look for any desired updates. (Food Security)
      1. Meet with city, county, and community partner personnel to understand existing emergency plans, as well as food storage capacity and how that compares to Buncombe County’s needs.
      2. explore whether we need storage facilities in order to meet long-term goal 1.c. explore plans for storage facilities in areas of highest need.
      3. Assess emergency food distribution to identify any needed improvements.
    4. City and County: Encourage food distribution in underserved communities by providing initiatives to establish markets in each neighborhood, based on neighborhood preferences. Encourage mobile markets for low-income communities where desired, especially those in food deserts.  Create food mentoring opportunities where wanted. (Access)
    5. FPC: Engage farmers in the Food Policy Council to identify their needs and how to help them through policy, programs and economic development planning. (not assigned yet)
    6. County and City Schools: Prioritize local, fresh foods in cafeterias of schools. Implement educational programs by creating curriculum and menus. Promote the adoption of healthy foods and funding for City and County schools, educators, consultants and any difference in expense for sourcing and processing locally grown food. (Education & Wellness)
    7. SACEE/City Staff/FPC in collaboration: Evaluate the existing Land Use Policy as it relates to urban and rural agriculture to ensure it supports our long term goals.  Evaluate government policy – both local and federal road blocks – and remedy barriers to production and distribution. (Land Use)
    8. City and County: Designate funding/staff/CDBG monies to support a “Resilient Neighborhoods” program, to assist neighbors in developing awareness of food security and planning for food shortages, including planting gardens.  (Food Security)
    9. City: Investigate the potential for a citywide composting program to complement trash and recycling programs and create a central point for community access to compost.  FPC: Support city efforts by aiding in promotion to related area agencies.  (Legislation)
    10. City: Support community gardens and urban agriculture through resolutions.    Include requirements for GMO Free. Include incentives/programs to support the NC 10% in large institutions.  (Legislation)
    11. City and county: Open and encourage city- and county-owned parks and greenways to community designed gardens and ensure any landscape design by firms includes the purpose of growing healthy food.  (Land Use)
      1. Utilize edible and medicinal landscaping in all public parks and rights of way and set target percentages of land devoted to food production
      2. Allow the gleaning and distribution of products from edible trees, plants, etc. in parks and rights of way.
      3. Encourage partnerships and volunteerism in park gardens and greenways, which provide nutritional education and involve communities in food security and food appreciation.
    12. City and County: Incent innovative methods of production (intensive permaculture systems, aquaculture, vertical farming, rooftop gardens, etc.) and include requirements for GMO-free.  (Food Flow)
    13. County/Beacon:  Evaluate the need for additional food serving sites for those in need.  Engage Parks/Rec with partners such as AB Tech, AIR DINER, GO, MANNA, ABCCM, Salvation Army, and Meals on Wheels to address needs.  (Access)
    14. City: Identify arable city-owned land and issue an RFP for organic, GMO-free food production, with a focus on Permaculture.  (Land Use)

Approved by General Council of the AB Food Policy Council on 8-27-12
Updated with Cluster Responsibilities by General Council on 9-25-12 and 1-9-13
Updated with definitions on 1-16-13



WHEREAS, the City of Asheville believes that all citizens should have access to healthy, nutritious food and that our community should be able to sustain its nutritional needs year-round with regionally grown, processed and stored healthy food; and

WHEREAS, The Asheville Buncombe  Food Policy Council defines healthy food as grown locally through organic and permaculture principles, from seeds, plants, and animals that are not genetically modified and in a manner that builds the fertility of the soil; and

WHEREAS, all communities should be empowered with access to resources and information needed to innovate and implement strategies for food security and resiliency; and

WHEREAS, our regional food economy can thrive and promote social and ecological sustainability, providing for human needs while protecting the diversity and abundance of our bioregion, including our forest land, agricultural land and watershed; and

WHEREAS, The City of Asheville recognizes that intact, biodiverse and healthy forest ecosystems provide abundant food and clean water in perpetuity.

WHEREAS, all citizens should enjoy food sovereignty through access to clean water, air and land, as well as the ability to cultivate, harvest, process, sell, share and trade food in order to thrive and empower their own resilience.


1. The City of Asheville approves the attached Food Policy Goals and Action Plan by incorporating it into the previously adopted Sustainability Management Plan.

Read, approved and adopted this XXX if YYY.

___________________________                                    _____________________________

City Clerk                                                                    Mayor

Approved as to form:


City Attorney

City of Asheville Long Term Food Policy Goals


The City of Asheville commits to participating in the Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council efforts and supports the following shared goals:

  1. Improve the quality of life for those in need by increasing access to food for people who experience food insecurity.
  2. Continue growing a robust regional food economy by increasing production and consumption of regional food and food products.
  3. Strive to meet all nutritional needs of the community with regionally produced foods.
  4. Work to prepare for short-term food emergencies and long-term food security.
  5. Collaborate with regional partners to achieve all food policy goals.

City of Asheville Food Policy Action Plan


  1. Utilize the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) as a tool to support food policy goals by amending the UDO as needed to remove barriers to local food production and distribution. For example, but not limited to, priorities such as community gardens, urban agriculture, and use of mobile markets in residentially zoned districts under certain circumstances such as farmers markets.
  2. Optimize permitting and regulatory services for farmers markets.
  3. Prioritize partnering to find a long-term permanent location for the Asheville City Market.
  4. Pursue establishing local food purchasing policies for the City of Asheville through clarity on existing state legislation as well as state enabling legislation where needed.
  5. Seek partnerships to incorporate regional food and beverage options into the U.S. Cellular Center concessions, as well as city-run events.
  6. Create a public private partnership for implementing a citywide curbside composting program that complements trash and recycling services. A successful partnership would improve regional economic development and provide compost regionally to support healthy ecological soil systems.
  7. Include use of edible landscaping as a priority for public property such as parks, greenways and/or right of ways. In support of this, foster relationships with strong community partners who wish to access edible landscaping and/or use underutilized public land for food production.
  8. Encourage partnerships for food production that supports organic and permaculture principles by identifying arable underutilized city-owned land for lease or sale. Pursue methods to make information about such land available to the public.
  9. Update the city recommended plant list for developers to include edible plants and remove exotic and invasive species.
  10. Include safe and convenient pedestrian, bicycle, and transit connections between residential neighborhoods and community gardens, food banks, grocery stores and farmers markets as a priority when evaluating transportation projects.
  1. Include achieving food policy goals as a priority when allocating Community Development Block Grants.
  2. Support Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council efforts to set baselines and metrics for achieving food policy goals.  Play an active role in providing access to existing city data when needed.
  3. Encourage food distribution by engaging underserved communities who live in food deserts. Support community efforts by co-designing incentives that establish neighborhood based markets that provide healthy food.
  4. Incorporate food policy goals into education programs for city staff and the general public.
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