Food and the City

Half of the world’s population currently live in cities. Each year millions of people move into urban areas looking for better opportunities. By the year 2050 urban dwellers will account for 65% of the total world population, or an estimated 6.419 billion people.

Lost in the “food desert”

Unfortunately, not everyone can benefit from urbanization. Millions of people around the world end up living in so-called “food deserts”, areas with limited or no access to affordable nutritious food, such as fresh produce. Food insecurity comes together with social injustice, as low-income urban residents are the ones affected the most. Over-processed fast-food is much cheaper and available than fresh vegetables, pushing people towards unhealthy diets that leads to obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases among adults and children.

Conquering “food miles”

Urban agriculture in different forms, from community and rooftop gardens to husbandry, has been around for generations. Its potential benefits go beyond food security alone. Firstly, urban agriculture reduces “food miles”, the distance between food producer and the consumer. Lowering transportation costs makes produce more affordable and at the same time reduces carbon emissions.

Setting up community gardens and urban farms in unused plots, such as abandoned parking lots, warehouses or backyards allows for more efficient use of space and helps to build community ties. Working together at the community garden creates a sense of belonging, as people contribute to the good of the entire community,  and restores the social connections that may be broken in disjointed urban environments. Selling excess of produce at weekend farmers markets provides extra income and makes the community life more vibrant.

Beyond the economic side, there is an important educational aspect. Actively involving children and young adults in the process of growing food gives educators the opportunity to teach them about broader issues such as agriculture, food culture, health and sustainability.

Joint effort for a sustainable future

As urban populations continue to grow, food security and nutrition problems will become more severe. Local governments together with experts are now focusing on making urban agriculture more scalable and sustainable. In October 2015 more than 100 cities around the world joined the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, which shares core principles and action frameworks for developing just and sustainable food systems.

Among other things the pact encourages the innovative approach to urban agriculture. Indoor farming that uses a mix of modern technologies has been gaining popularity in cities, as it is both sustainable and impervious to tough weather conditions. Know an indoor farm near you? Write a review at One Planet Rating!

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