International Development, Community and Environment (IDCE)

Date of Award


Degree Type

Final Project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Community Development and Planning (CDP)


International Development, Community and Environment

Chief Instructor

Kathryn Madden, M.C.P., S.M.Arch.S.

Second Reader

Benjamin Simmons-Telep



Healthy food systems hold potential to improve a city’s social, health, and economic well-being. Currently, there is a worldwide trend in refocusing food systems to invest in the local community rather than relying on hyper-industrial food value chains that erect barriers for local residents in a city’s food sector. It is the purpose of this report to assess how Hartford’s food sector currently is working so that the city may move in a more innovative direction with its food sector, improving the social, health, and economic conditions for the city and its residents. Thus, this report examines Hartford’s food assets and challenges as well as its opportunities for growth and improvement. In doing so, it investigates if investing in the food economy as an industry cluster is right for Hartford in terms of its cultural, health, and economic progress and identifies which recommendations may make these improvements viable. Through a combination of a food system literature review and 22 interviews with a representative sample of Hartford food stakeholders, this report analyzes the current functionality of Hartford’s food system. Through this analysis, Hartford is found to be a quasi food desert, where food is available but is not consumed to a high degree because of lower healthy food quality, a possible consequence of the higher costs associated with offering healthy options, as well as overall store quality. Likewise, the Hartford food system lacks systems for aggregation and is losing quality young talent. While City leadership and the food community are bourgeoning in terms of their influence in the food system, there is work to be done in terms of explicitly supporting the local food economy, collaborating and aggregating resources, and incentivizing local food business. Recommendations for addressing these findings include improving urban grocery stores, advocating for food aggregation, engaging the private sector, increasing food education, streamlining the food business startup process, amending the city’s zoning ordinance, and developing a food investment syndicate.



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