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Concept Paper: Leveraging the Food Economy for a More Equitable Durham

Published: May 2020
Authors: Lianna Gomori-Ruben, Jennifer Zuckerman, Gizem Templeton

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This concept paper develops a case for leveraging Equitable Food Oriented Development (EFOD) as a strategy for strengthening Durham, North Carolina’s community stability. As Durham prepares to build infrastructure for inclusive and equitable development, it can target food systems for greater impact. Using the EFOD criteria in planning will support the generation of community-owned and led businesses that reflect the unique culture of Durham. The City can create mechanisms for EFOD by providing access to capital and technical assistance. Effective capital will leverage both private and public funds to build a seed fund. Managed by CDFIs, these funds could provide patient, flexible capital that meets the needs of growing businesses. In addition, the City could provide technical assistance that is proactive and responsive. It can utilize local partnerships to provide high quality one-on-one consulting, workshops, competitions, incubators, and accelerators. Through an EFOD-aligned initiative, Durham could take intentional action to address the entrenched racial wealth gap and serve as a leader for other cities nationwide. Realizing the under-tapped potential in communities of color would make Durham into a prosperous, culturally rich city in which all residents can thrive.


Durham, North Carolina is a diverse and growing city with great resources. Its growth, however, is imbalanced: 16% of city residents live in poverty, and people of color are disproportionately represented in this group. The racial wealth gap in Durham is consistent with national statistics and emerges from centuries of policies and practices impacted by systemic racism. Unless strategic action is taken, the racial wealth gap will continue to perpetuate and compound into the future. The City of Durham has an opportunity to build the infrastructure for a future in which every resident can thrive. To that end, the City is planning for economic development that targets equity and racial justice. To expand the impact of existing plans, some programming should focus on food. Equitably developing businesses along the food chain will improve outcomes in food security, nutrition, cultural place-making, and employment. Programs to implement equitable food-oriented development must strategically provide access to capital and technical assistance. By incorporating food systems into existing development plans, Durham can better access the abundance of potential that lies within its underserved communities.


  • Implement Equitable Food-Oriented Development
  • Provide Access to Capital
  • Utilize Community Development Financial Institutions
  • Leverage Federal Programs and Contracts
  • Provide Technical Assistance