Professor of City and Regional Planning Charisma Acey, along with Jennifer Sowerwine, a researcher in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management and UC Cooperative Extension; and Alana Siegner, a Ph.D. Student in the Energy & Resources Group at UC Berkeley co-authored a literature review on urban agriculture and food security, and also partnered with community stakeholders to design and implement a survey of 140 East Bay farms. Published in Sustainability— an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewedand open access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings—the survey assesses the farms' current strategies to address food insecurity and the effectiveness of these strategies in fulfilling the farms' goals of expanding access to and distribution of urban produced food.
Launched in 2018, Sustainable Urban Farming for Resilience and Food Security is a three-year collaborative project from the Berkeley Food Institute focused on food justice through the lens of urban agroecosystems, economic viability, and food security within the East Bay community and beyond. The project envisions developing strategies to help urban farmers scale effective farming practices, identify effective strategies to increase healthy food access, and secure the long-term viability of urban farming.
Currently, 12.5% of the population (4.9 million) in California lives with food insecurity. Within the East Bay, rates of food insecurity are especially acute: over 120,000 people in Alameda County rely on the CalFresh program and one in five residents relied on the food bank in order to feed themselves and their families. Urban agriculture is one of several strategies that has emerged in recent years to address this need. However, farms are faced with several challenges, including economic viability, best practices for pest management, and working with nutrient-poor soils. This in turn affects farms' abilities to meet their goals of helping food insecure communities.
Over its three-year timeline, the project plans to evaluate and propose solutions to three problems within urban agriculture:
- Reducing food waste by evaluating the effectiveness of food access and food distribution methods in meeting food needs of urban food insecure communities.
- Improving the quality, safety, and water retention capacity of urban soils by conducting research on soil health and soil contamination.
- Determining strategies to promote beneficial insects and their habitats for urban pest control, by assessing the effects of urban landscape composition on beneficial insect populations.
For more information or to learn how to engage in the project, visit the website here.