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BPS E-News: City Council votes for easier access to affordable, healthful food

On June 13, 2012, Portland City Council made a significant step toward increasing access to healthful, affordable food for all Portlanders by adopting the Urban Food Zoning Code Update.

Led by the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability in partnership with the Oregon Public Health Institute (OPHI) and members of the community, the Urban Food Zoning Code Update project implements a new set of regulations to support growing, buying and selling food at a scale that is appropriate to residential neighborhoods and helps build community. The new regulations address community gardens, farmers markets and market gardens, as well as alternative food distribution methods such as community sponsored agriculture (CSA) and food buying clubs. Because even a small cost can be a barrier for some, this proposal has very little in the way of permit fees and almost all activities will be allowed outright if standards are met.

Many Years in the Making

This project addresses long-standing issues around access to affordable, healthful food. Many community members have advocated for a review of the zoning code to expand healthful food options and affirm the City's commitment to forging a stronger connection between Portland residents and their food sources. Over 10 years ago, the resolution that established the Portland Multnomah Food Policy Council identified land use issues in the zoning code and called for removal of obstacles to distributing and growing food in the city.

Created through a dynamic 18-month public process, the project involved many community and government stakeholders and the establishment of a Code Development Advisory Group  (CDAG).

Partnerships with Multnomah County and Other Partners

Multnomah County awarded a Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant to BPS and OPHI to help ensure health and equity were considered in this project and that decisions related to urban food production and distribution maximized public health benefits.

Steve Cohen, BPS food policy and program manager, said, “Our collaboration with health partners was key to the success of this project, and the final result is a culmination of a decade-long discussion and advocacy from the Food Policy Council and other dedicated community members.”

Next Steps/Implementation to Focus on Education and Assistance

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability will continue to work with other bureaus and community partners to affirm the City's commitment to producing and distributing food in a way that promotes equity, and economic, environmental and personal health. Next steps will focus on education and hands-on assistance through existing BPS programs, as well as continuing our work with community and health partners.

In a related action, City Council also passed a resolution to establish baseline indicators and adopt goals for the Portland food system. Developed in collaboration with community partners and building on initiatives such as the Climate Action and Portland  plans, the goals will be updated every two years in a report to the Planning and Sustainability Commission and City Council.

For more information about the Urban Food Zoning Code Update, please visit