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Through the Food Systems Resilience Project, CAFS conducts policy research to strengthen food systems against climate change and other hazards.

With climate-related shocks and stressors adding to existing hazards facing food systems, this is a critical time to examine food system vulnerabilities and work to ameliorate them. The project grew out of a desire to understand whether specific types of policies can promote food systems resilience. The resources developed as part of this project help advocates, planners, and policymakers build food systems resilience within their own planning and policy-making efforts.

Food Systems Resilience Planning and the Climate Crisis: Defining Concepts and Terminology, published in May 2024, defines food systems resilience in the context of the climate crisis and explores key concepts for building equitable and resilient local and regional food systems.

As the climate crisis causes devastating emergencies across food systems, long-term equity-centered resilience planning becomes even more important. Building a shared understanding of language and concepts is an important first step.

The prevalence of “resilience” as a term and concept in research articles, government documents and programming, and media stories has increased in recent years, with a rapid influx since 2020. Many new government-funded programs and philanthropic funding target “resilience” goals, metrics, and outcomes at community, municipal, state, Tribal, and national levels. 

As support emerges for building resilient systems—including food, transportation, energy, emergency response, and more—it may become more difficult to maintain a shared understanding of what is meant by resilience. The term resilience has always had multiple definitions and applications across sectors, making it difficult to be specific about what resilience means across a variety of contexts.

Resilience: Concepts & Policy Approaches, published in June 2019, presents advocates and policymakers with a suite of policy tools for strengthening food system resilience. Authors Assistant Professor Emily Spiegel and student Jenileigh Harris developed an overview of the current scholarship on resilience, especially as it applies to food systems, as a means to predict, assess, and improve how those systems cope with disruption. They created the Food Systems Resilience Policy Chart to illustrate the conceptual mechanisms by which different types of policies contribute to resilience. Finally, the authors applied the chart to a case study of Puerto Rican policies and proposals. 

The Food Systems Resilience Project is funded by the National Agricultural Library, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture

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