Summarizing issues raised at the recent “Feeding Cities” conference at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Urban Research, Neal Peirce looks at the quandaries and opportunities raised by the relationship between food and cities.
"Cities themselves set up the problem," he explains. "They’re growing, both in population and the land they consume, at amazing speed, devouring often-fertile farmlands on their periphery. The population’s food demands are requiring a dramatic expansion of farmed territory. Drawn by the hope of better incomes, youth are moving to the cities, leaving agriculture to large-scale, intensive, corporate-driven farming systems and food distribution channels."
"On top of all those trends, Heather Grady of the Rockefeller Foundation noted in a keynote address, there is climate change, triggering either extreme heat or excessive rainfall and thus either drought or floods. One likely impact: price spikes, first hitting the poor who spend a large portion of their income on food."
However, by addressing two key areas - getting rid of waste in the processing, delivery and sales processes and conserving land for agriculture in, and around, urban environs - we can make significant progress towards being able to feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit the planet by 2050.
"To date, city-produced foods account for a tiny share of urban food needs," concludes Peirce. "But one is led to wonder: If city food demand is a top 21st-century concern, perhaps city ingenuity – and spirit – can also help to forge answers."