As we consider developing our cities and local spaces in a sustainable way, food should be a resource that brings people together rather than a divisive element that separates communities.
Access to nutritious food is a basic human right; however, it can be a challenge to get healthy food to inner cities or impoverished communities. Whether this be due to food deserts, environmental racism, or health inequity, these challenges require our attention and deliberate efforts. Fortunately, many organizations are working on food justice at an international, regional, and local level.
Planting Justice is a nonprofit that works with local volunteers and employees to build edible permaculture gardens throughout the Bay Area of Northern California. This network provides outlets for action and helps create opportunities for the future of agriculture and food networks. Food Corps is a national nonprofit that is creating more equitable opportunities for all people to access healthy food. It does this through education, training, and developing a dialogue that is needed for food equality. The CITYFOOD Network is an international program that provides food system analysis and empowers communities with educational tools to understand the health of their food network; it establishes a network to track accomplishments and set goals moving forward.
Food network’s help assess local food systems, but also provide tools that will support community efforts; this network provides outlets for action and will contribute to opportunities that will foster bright ideas for the future of agriculture and food networks. Creating strong food networks cultivates a deeper connection to place. Resident markets promote local sourcing of food, which supports neighboring farmers; these markets also encourage daily interactions with neighbors, creating a deeper sense of community.
The Future of Food Systems in Cities
Our future will require innovative approaches to improve the food systems, such as vertical farming, alternative fertilizers, and sustainable farming practices; therefore, we must create platforms to start a dialogue. There are many creative things we can do in our cities to increase accessibility to healthy food, one of these being urban gardens – but what if we took that to the next level?
Commercial buildings around the world have been vacated due to the pandemic. And while people will return to the office one day, the work-from-home dynamic is here to stay. Inevitably, there will be a larger amount of empty space. What if we were to refurbish skyscrapers into small-scale gardens? Each floor has access to windows and could house revolutionary redesigns to transform buildings to grow their own food. This may seem like a wild idea – but if city dynamics have changed since the pandemic, why not consider developing the unused space in our concrete jungles?
Whether economically feasible or not, asking these questions is where we begin.
The redesign of our food system must be ambitious and transformative. Ideas on how we can better utilize the space in our built environment can come from anyone; whether policy makers or community members, everyone can be a problem-solver. Holistic approaches are needed to nurture a high quality of life and build strong economic development. When we recognize all aspects of growth, from nutrition and health to land use and resource management, we will begin to grow a nourished and thriving city.
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