Posted March 28th 2011 at 8:39 am by
in The Enabling City, Thesis Chronicles

Hungry for Change: Eating & Growing in Urban Centers

This post is part of Thesis Chronicles.

Seasonal produce at the farmers market. Photo by scottroberts.

From Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) to community gardens, underground supper clubs to food swaps, what we eat is once again becoming a major concern for people living in urban areas.

By 2020, it is estimated that over half of the world’s population will live in urban areas, yet currently one billion people live in chronic hunger.  This, compounded with the current environmental crisis and global recession, has left many hungry for change.

Instead of waiting for governments to serve ready-made solutions to this persisting problem, urban residents are developing solutions for every taste and budget. Here are a few inspiring examples of community-driven leadership in food:

Not far from the tree: Not Far From the Tree is a Toronto-based organization that connects fruit tree owners and volunteers through a residential fruit-picking program designed to harvest fruits that would otherwise go to waste. At the end of the process, one third of all fruit goes to tree owners, another third to volunteers, and the remaining third is delivered by bike or cart to organizations in the neighborhood.

The Stop: The Stop is a holistic organization based in Toronto that engages people through a food bank, community action program, bake oven and markets, community cooking, urban agriculture and sustainable food systems education. A key tenet of The Stop’s approach is that community members must be involved in making decisions about how the organization operates in order to reduce the stigma associated with receiving free food.

Capital Growth: To celebrate the 2012 London Olympic Games, Mayor Boris Johnson, The Big Lottery’s Local Food Fund and London Food Link have joined forces to create 2,012 new food growing spaces by the end of 2012. Additionally, they occasionally provide small grants to groups who would like support to implement or expand a community food growing space in London.

Boskoi: Boskoi is a free, Ushahidi-based mobile app that helps users explore and map the edible landscape on the go. The app lays out a map of local fruits and herbs and allows users to edit and add their own finds anywhere in the world.

Urban farm at PS-1.  Photo by Urban Sea Star.

Eating and growing locally not only makes food access equitable, as in the case of The Stop, but it also helps to protect biodiversity, eliminate toxic substances from the production process, optimize land use and reduce energy consumption.  In economic terms, going local also enables residents to invest in local retail channels like farmers markets, which connect producers and consumers directly and generate immediate revenue for cities. Plus, the benefits are not only for urbanites. Supporting local organic food production also supports rural entrepreneurship, enabling farmers and local organizations to have a stable customer base and lower operational costs.  After all, a city is what it eats.

How is the local food scene in your city? Would you host a restaurant in your living room, or 
attend an underground supper event? Have you discovered any great recipes (or new food items) from going to farmers’ markets? Leave a comment and start the discussion!

Chiara Camponeschi works at the intersection of interdisciplinary research, social innovation and urban sustainability. Her latest project, The Enabling City, is based on graduate research conducted at York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies in Toronto, Canada.  Hungry for more examples of innovative food initiatives? Download a copy of The Enabling City.

2 responses to “Hungry for Change: Eating & Growing in Urban Centers”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Thanks for posting this. We are working on a local initiative with Dr. Alijca Zobel of Trent University Garden Farmacies for Healthy Living. Helping people set up sustainable gardens using allelopathic gardening methods. We are hoping that local restaurants will feature some of our locally grown foods and recipes on their menus.

  2. dorothy bloom says:

    I am fascinated by the Stop because it is the umbrella for a wide series of services interrelated and thus readily accessable in many combinations. One of the benefits, is that for is that for people with low expectations this provides a level of experience and education that imparts knowledge and through knowledge success, and through success a heightened opinion of one’s own capabilities. And it all happens under one roof.