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New Research Highlights Potential Vulnerabilities of Urban Food Systems to Natural Disasters

BOSTON, MA—The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) today released new research in a report titled, The Resilience of America’s Food Systems: Evidence from Five Cities. Supported by a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation, the study finds that natural disasters could create extended food supply disruptions in U.S. cities, especially in neighborhoods with limited food retail options and food insecure populations. The main findings of the report are informed by a comprehensive analysis of food systems in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York City using a seminal framework developed by ICIC. The report also highlights Madison, Wisconsin as a city that should be recognized for the resilience of its food system, and Portland, Maine is presented as a case study for the economic resilience of food-based economies.

The main findings of the report are informed by a comprehensive analysis of food systems in Los Angeles, New Orleans, and New York City using a seminal framework developed by ICIC. The report also highlights Madison, Wisconsin as a city that should be recognized for the resilience of its food system, and Portland, Maine is presented as a case study for the economic resilience of food-based economies.

The report also finds that by diverting edible food from landfills to food banks, food waste reduction initiatives may play an important role in food system resilience planning by increasing the availability of meals for the food insecure. The Rockefeller Foundation is already working globally through its YieldWise initiative to demonstrate how food waste and loss can be cut in half over the next five years.

“We hope ICIC’s groundbreaking research on urban food systems will compel city leaders to prioritize food systems in discussions and planning around urban resilience,” said Ryan Whalen, Director, Initiatives and Strategy at The Rockefeller Foundation. The Rockefeller Foundation pioneered 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), which helps cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century. 100RC views resilience not just as shocks—earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.—but also as stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a day-to-day or cyclical basis.

“In response to recent natural disasters, cities are increasingly prioritizing resilience planning, but food systems have been largely overlooked,” said Kimberly Zeuli, ICIC’s Director of Research and lead author of the report. To aid city leaders in the strengthening of urban food system resilience, the report concludes by offering five recommendations that serve as a playbook. “A food system perspective in resilience planning and the strategies we have identified can ensure that food systems return to normal operations as quickly as possible after a disaster,” Zeuli said.

The full report can be found online.

Media Contacts:

Kim Zeuli, kzeuli@icic.org, 617.238.3012

Carey Meyers, cmeyers@rockfound.org, 212.852.8486