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What is Your City’s Foodbowl?

Touch the Soil News #474

Knowing how much farmland it takes to feed your city and the ability of that food to come from regions around the city is not of importance to global financiers, economists or even higher education.

Financiers, economists and educators have focused our attention on global free markets. While the global free market has its benefits, but it has also caused us to have a narrow focus. Global consciousness about how a particular city is set to feed itself is close to zero.

The standard assumption is food will come from somewhere and local pursuit of growth and paving farmland should not be interrupted. Another assumption is that the foodbowls around the world that ship food to your city will not be paved and compromised, as the foodbowl gets paved around your own city. These assumptions have no basis in reality.

Foodbowl is an Australian concept that means an area’s food production capacity. So what is the foodbowl of your city?

The city of Melbourne (in the province of Victoria, Australia) has decided to buck the trend. Over the past two years, the city and a host of collaborating municipalities and universities produced what is a first in Australia and perhaps in the world. A report that warns Melbourne inhabitants, they will face a “perfect storm” in coming decades that will take suburban fresh food production from a pastime to a necessity.

Melbourne, Australia is perhaps the first global mega-city in which the city fathers moved to consciously assess where its food comes from, how much food it must have and the prospects of saving the food-shed (foodbowl) that presently exists in and around the city. For perspective, in recent years some of the largest farming tracts in Australia have been purchased by Chinese interests enveloping the nation in a political broil over farmland ownership (photo courtesy of John O’Neill CC 3.0).

The Melbourne Foodbowl report has some interesting findings:

  1. Urban and peri-urban farming areas around Melbourne currently produce about 41 percent of the metro’s food needs.
  2. By 2050, urban expansion trends and population growth will result in Melbourne’s foodbowl being able to provide only 18 percent of their food needs.
  3. The average Melbourne citizen needs at least 7 lbs. 10 oz. of food each day. While this seems like a high number, after you deduct losses, trimmings, banana peels and apple cores. It is a realistic number.
  4. To feed Melbourne’s 4.37 million people today takes 12.1 billion pounds of food a year – a staggering amount that will increase to a need of 19.4 billion pounds a year by 2050.

If you are interested, you can download the full report at:

Following is a short video clip by Dr. Rachel Carey from Deakin University, one of the collaborators of the Melbourne Foodbowl report:

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