Food Systems


Urban food systems extend well beyond the administrative boundaries of cities. In the US, on average, food travels some 1200 miles before it reaches the end consumer. There is an increasing recognition that the actions that cities take with respect to food policy-e.g. nutrition policy, food access efforts, local production, food waste management-have the power to reduce the environmental impact of the food system overall.

The network’s research in this area is concerned with understanding the degree to which, and under what conditions, it is advisable to localize a city’s food system, meaning that a city produces a substantial amount of food locally, within city boundaries, or sources a substantial amount of food from the region immediately surrounding an urban area. As a strategy for localization, there is increasing interest in the potential of urban agriculture to contribute to community-scale food resilience and equity.

The network’s research efforts on urban food systems are concerned with understanding the full extent of the environmental impact of food systems by understanding urban food footprints-or the greenhouse gases, water, and land resources used in the production, transportation, storage, and sale of food consumed in cities, in addition to the disposal and management of food waste in cities.

Research efforts also focus on understanding the motivations and corresponding best messaging efforts to promote changes in household diets and purchasing behaviors toward local products that support urban or regional local agriculture. Social actor research on the topic of urban food systems is aimed at developing a better understanding of neighborhood-scale challenges, in terms of local ordinances, community perceptions, and business development challenges around issues of increasing the penetration of local food into retail markets.


Evaluating Urban Food Systems

  • February 2018
  • Video
  • Author: Dana Boyer

It is projected that about two thirds of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050. Making sure that cities can handle the influx of people means considering more … Read more

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