Eating from the Local Foodshed?

March 16, 2010 at 1:46 am Leave a comment

Ever hear of a foodshed? It’s a geographic area within a certain distance of a given location where food can be sourced.

With eight million residents, New York City would be hard pressed to meet people’s dietary needs from its local foodshed alone. Nevertheless, the foodshed can supply much more food than it does now, contends a report released last month by the Manhattan Borough President’s Office.

The report notes that as much as 30 percent of residents’ dietary needs can be met locally.

Why should people care about eating from the local foodshed? The report cites many reasons, not least of which is the sad state of affairs facing New York farmers. At a time when State farms are disappearing at an alarming rate — one farm is lost to development every three days — it’s important to support local agriculture and preserve farming know-how.

“By becoming less dependent on imported food, the city will gain greater control over the quality and security of its food supply, be less vulnerable to contamination and tampering, and be better prepared for emergencies,” states the report.

There are other reasons for eating local. Food sourced locally travels less, so it’s better for the environment. It’s also healthier because it requires less processing.

Lastly, the report notes, eating local food helps support the local economy. The report cites a Detroit study, which found that a 20% increase in spending on regional food created more than 4,700 jobs and generated nearly $20 million more in business taxes annually.

In New York City, where demand for local food is booming, the economic stimulus could be significant. The report puts the unmet demand for locally grown produce in New York City at $649 million.

Exactly how much food can New York City’s foodshed produce? How much does it supply New Yorkers now? No one knows.

That’s why the report recommends a foodshed analysis to study the regional food system and assess its capacity and constraints.

“There is insufficient knowledge about the existing regional food system,” states the report. “Without an assessment like the one recommended, it is difficult to make good policy decisions to correct the inefficiencies in the system, let alone leverage potential opportunities.”

Click here for a related post on New York State foodsheds. The post discusses a mapping tool developed by the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences at Cornell University to show the size of potential local foodsheds throughout the state.

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Entry filed under: Local Food Production, Urban Agriculture. Tags: , , , .

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