The Policy Work Group started its journey in 2010 to improve public policies related to food in the greater Phoenix Metropolitan area. At that time, members met as the Healthy Local Food System Working Group (HLFSWG) with support from the Vitalyst Health Foundation. When the Maricopa County Food System Coalition formed in 2015, the HLFSWG transitioned into the Coalition’s first work group, the Policy Work Group (PWG).

The PWG has been successful in working with the City of Phoenix on issues related to community gardens and farmers’ markets and has been integral in the City’s focus on the local food system in various planning processes (General Plan, Sustainability Plan, Food Action Plan). With a new initiative called the Public Policy Project, the PWG hopes to meaningfully expand work with cities and towns across the entire county to develop and implement policies that support an equitable, healthy, sustainable and thriving local food system.

Public Policy Project

Best Practices Guide for Food System Policy and Regulation Change in Maricopa County Communities

In the fall of 2016, MarCo received a grant from the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) to fund a Community Food Assessment (CFA). A CFA is an evaluation tool used to measure the food assets and needs of a specific community or region and point to opportunities for improvement.

One of the Core Elements of the CFA is a review of food policy and regulations of local municipal government. To fulfill this core element, the MarCo Policy Work Group (PWG) initiated the Public Policy Project. The Public Policy Project was designed to collect, examine, highlight and recognize public policies and regulations adopted by municipalities across Maricopa County that support and advance the local food system.

Work Group Meetings

The Policy Work Group meets the first Tuesday of each month at 1:30PM. All meetings are held virtually for the foreseeable future. See the Calendar for dates, call-in numbers, and additional details.

Dean Brennan, FAICP


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Kenneth Steel, MPH

Healthy Communities Program Manager, Pinnacle Prevention

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Past Accomplishments

  • Assisted the City of Phoenix in drafting its newly adopted Food Action Plan (2018-20).
  • Initiated the Public Policy Project to identify local public policies that positively and negatively impact urban agriculture. A series of interviews were conducted with 10 cities/towns in Maricopa County and policies and regulations identified.  Those policies and regulations served as the basis for the compilation of a Local Best Practices Report (2018-20).
  • Developed a model lease agreement to help community gardeners and farmers in Maricopa County work with property owners to reduce uncertainty regarding agricultural use of land (2016).
  • Developed the Farmers Market Toolkit, a guide to starting and improving farmers markets (2016).

  • Assisted the City of Phoenix in modernizing and clarifying the farmers' market fee schedule, resulting in a lower fee for small farmers' markets (2015).
  • Worked with the City of Phoenix to include a Healthy Food System Component in the planPHX General Plan (2015).
  • Collaborated with the Phoenix Planning & Development Department to prepare the Zoning Ordinance Community Garden Policy Guidelines (2012).
  • Assisted the City of Phoenix with amending the zoning ordinance to include community gardens and farmers markets as permitted land uses in Phoenix.  This resulted in clearer language that encourages the establishment of community gardens and farmers markets (2010).

The Healthy Food System component of Phoenix’s 2015 planPHX General Plan includes a goal to “Promote the growth of a healthy, affordable, secure and sustainable food system that makes healthy food available to all Phoenix residents.”

Policy Work Group Resources

Healthy Food Policy Project

The Healthy Food Policy Project (HFPP) identifies and elevates local laws from around the U.S. that seek to promote access to healthy food while also contributing to strong local economies, an improved environment, and health equity, with a focus on socially disadvantaged and marginalized groups. HFPP's website includes a policy database, in-depth case studies from communities, and much more.

Visit Site

USDA's Urban Agriculture Toolkit

This toolkit lays out the common operational elements that most urban farmers must consider as they start up or grow their operations. It also contains a special section on resources for developing indoor growing operations, such as aquaponic facilities. For each element, the toolkit identifies technical and financial resources that have been developed by federal, state, and local partners. While some of the elements require local-level solutions (e.g. zoning), federal programs and services can support a variety of activities related to urban farming.

Download the Toolkit

Seeding the City: Land use policies to promote urban agriculture

This Toolkit from ChangeLab Solutions provides a framework and model language for land use policies that local policymakers can tailor to promote and sustain urban agriculture in their communities.

Download the Toolkit

From the Ground Up: Land use policies to protect and promote Farmers' Markets

ChangeLab Solutions developed this guide to provide an overview of farmers’ market policy issues and community tested best practices. It also features a set of complementary model land use policies for comprehensive plans and zoning ordinances.

Download the Guide

Join Us

To join this Work Group, please contact our chairs.

Contact Our Chairs