If one were playing a word association game and were asked what comes to mind when the terms “food” and “land use” are given, chances are high that the response would be “agriculture.” Yet every stage in the food system, from being grown or raised through being consumed, is place-based. Put differently, everything that happens with our food system involves land use in some way. Even the acquisition of aquatically sourced foods requires a journey that begins from the shore, and yet it is rare to consider the profound ways in which our every interaction with food system utilizes or determines the use of land. Zoning and other land use management tools have long affected the availability of food in urban communities, reinforcing or amplifying the creation of food deserts. Some jurisdictions have begun to recognize their power to direct food access through land use legislation, while others continue to treat such decisions as value-neutral. This essay interrogates food law frameworks by using several examples of land use policies, rules, and laws in order to consider these questions: (1) To what extent has form determined function (land use law determined food access); (2) Is it appropriate for governments to use their land use authority to intervene in the retail food market; and (3) Given competing public policy considerations around this issue, should there be an expectation that food be treated similarly to housing water, and other essentials in the “bundle of goods” in which government explicitly intervenes? The essay has three major parts. The first, which comprises sectors II, III, and IV, discusses, clarifies, and defines the essay’s framework and terminology. Sections V and VI present and discusses a variety of zoning ordinances for fast food and grocery stores, which have been compiled from cities around the United States. Finally, Section VII interrogates and reflects upon those questions. The intent is not to provide authoritative answers to the questioned posed, but rather to present some thoughts as a catalyst for further consideration of these issues.

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