Learning From and Reshaping the Urban Food System

With her Foodprint project, Nicola Twilley wondered what one could learn about a city by looking at it through the lens of food. In this piece on <em>Urban Omnibus</em> she shares what she's learned.
August 19, 2010, 1pm PDT | Nate Berg
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Through two events -- one in New York and another in Toronto -- Twilley and co-organizer Sarah Rich invited speakers and eperts to discuss how food shapes the urban environment and how urban policies can be improved to reshape the food systems that feed our cities.

"Many extraordinary and peculiar factoids, certainly: enough to keep us well-stocked at dinner parties for years to come. Toronto, for example, is the second largest urban food processing hub in North America (after Chicago) and its food factories still occasionally overwhelm certain neighborhoods with the smell of roasting coffee beans, freshly-slaughtered beef, or potato and leek soup. We also learned that turning just 10% of NYC's private backyards over to urban agriculture would produce 113 million lbs of vegetables each year, or enough to feed 700,000 people at current rates of consumption.

We have also confirmed one of the Foodprint Project's founding premises: the best food conversations are hyper-interdisciplinary. As Nevin Cohen, urban planner and panelist at Foodprint NYC, put it, "Food is a social justice issue and a public health issue; it's also an economic development issue, it's a transportation issue, it's a regional planning issue, it's an ecological issue." By inviting panelists whose work engages deeply with the city's food systems, but who come from widely differing perspectives - such as a First Nations fisherman, a food scientist working to redesign salt crystals, an architect using urban agriculture to retrofit ‘60s tower blocks, and the health official in charge of drafting Toronto's first city-wide food policy - we've created new connections, both personal and conceptual."

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Published on Thursday, August 19, 2010 in Urban Omnibus
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