How Urban Agriculture Can Improve Food Security

Sourced from Civil Eats

During the partial federal shutdown in December 2018 and January 2019, news reports showed furloughed government workers standing in line for donated meals. These images were reminders that for an estimated 1 out of 8 Americans, food insecurity is a near-term risk.

In California, where I teach, 80 percent of the population lives in cities. Feeding the cities of the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, with a total population of some 7 million, involves importing 2.5 to 3 million tons of food per day over an average distance of 500 to 1,000 miles.

This system requires enormous amounts of energy and generates significant greenhouse gas emissions. It also is extremely vulnerable to large-scale disruptions, such as major earthquakes.

And the food it delivers fails to reach 1 of every 8 people in the region who live under the poverty line—mostly senior citizens, children, and minorities. Access to high-quality food is limited both by poverty and the fact that on average, California’s low-income communities have 32.7 percent fewer supermarkets than high-income areas within the same cities.

Many organizations see urban agriculture as a way to improve food security. It also offers environmental, health, and social benefits. Although the full potential of urban agriculture is still to be determined, based on my own research, I believe that raising fresh fruits, vegetables, and some animal products near consumers in urban areas can improve local food security and nutrition, especially for underserved communities.

The Growth of Urban Agriculture

Urban farming has grown by more than 30 percent in the United States in the past 30 years. Although it has been estimated that urban agriculture can meet 15 to 20 percent of global food demand, it remains to be seen what level of food self-sufficiency it can realistically ensure for cities.

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