Food is so ubiquitous that we often take it for granted.
But the last decade has seen a rising number of destructive weather events with a devastating impact on crops, as well as numerous food scares – the contamination of baby milk in China in 2008 and the recent recall of romaine lettuce in the United States are just two memorable cases. Such events have prompted cities to take a closer look at their food sources.
Through conversations with city leaders at the forefront of the urban farming movement, case studies and CLC’s own research, this issue of Urban Solutions explores how cities can address the challenges of producing food efficiently as well as sustainably, and ensuring citizens have easy access to healthy and affordable food.
Some key points are clear:
Governments must take the lead in ensuring food security.
The Mayor of Milan Giuseppe Sala shares how the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact brought together 180 cities and towns to collaborate in working towards a comprehensive and sustainable food strategy. Dr Ngiam Tong Tau recounts how Singapore overcame its challenges of insufficient agricultural land and lack of natural food resources. With good urban planning, the city-state has in fact become well-known for its accessible hawker centres and its local food culture. In New York City, a rooftop urban farming industry is flourishing thanks to a nurturing system of grants and thoughtful legislation.
Communities play a key role.
On the ground, empowered communities are not only involved, they are leading the way. Citizen Farm has attracted many converts with its closed-loop system that produces edible greens and black soldier flies to process food waste. At Our Tampines Hub, the local community helps to package and distribute recycled food waste produced by its Eco-Digester. To ensure school children have easy access to healthy and affordable food, convenience store chains in New Taipei City are working with the city government to provide meals for low-income students in the Eat with Love programme.
Most of all, a spirit of innovation is needed to see new possibilities.
Indeed, inspiring examples of cities fostering a culture of entrepreneurship and resilience already exist. In the Netherlands, Dutch companies have banded together to create Food Valley, an ecosystem of like-minded businesses promoting innovation in urban agriculture. Meanwhile, in cities with limited land for agriculture, urban farms are popping up on barren land and taking root in offices and underground tunnels.
As the effects of climate change become increasingly real, cities must adapt and evolve. We hope this issue of Urban Solutions provides insights and inspiration in the movement to ensure sustainable food production for growing populations. I wish you all an enjoyable read.
Khoo Teng Chye
Centre for Liveable Cities