Urban Farming: The New Design of Social Sustainability

Submitted By

Denisha Porter
Cincinnati Health Department, Ohio
August 15, 2013

In 2012, six community-based farms in Cincinnati provided thousands of pounds of fresh produce to residents in disadvantaged neighborhoods. The Urban Farming Program, part of the Cincinnati Health Department's Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) program, partnered with Urban Farming Inc., a Detroit, MI based non-profit, as part of a national initiative to convert unused parcels of land into community-based urban farms. The program increases access to healthful foods, addresses issues of health disparities, and works to establish local food systems.

For Cincinnati, food access is an issue of health equity. Access to healthful foods has been recognized as a major issue for Cincinnati residents. A recent study of Cincinnati has shown that 69% of residents live at least 1.5 miles or more (a 30 minute walk) from a mainstream grocery outlet. This was true for 82% of African American residents compared to only 41% of white residents, further emphasizing the disproportionate inequities amongst minority populations and increasing risk of malnutrition, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other chronic health conditions later in life.

The Urban Farming Program, led by the Creating Healthy Communities program assess current food access issues and works with local government, policymakers, and community stakeholders to establish healthful and sustainable local food systems. Since its inception, the practice of urban agriculture has rapidly expanded throughout Cincinnati's many neighborhoods. The Urban Farming Program recognizes urban agriculture as an innovative and comprehensive approach to improving the health of social, ecological, and economic systems. Additionally, there is an increase in physical activity, community involvement, and education of healthful lifestyle practices and eating habits.

Through community engagement and small-scale intensive farming methods, six community-based farms are able to provide nutritious foods to neighborhood residents, community recreation centers, community food pantries, and local senior centers. Since 2010, there has been an annual increase in food production and community participation with over 5,000 lbs of fruits and vegetables produced in 2012. The distribution process is unregulated, meaning the food is available to all community members, regardless of participation. There are no barriers or fencing restricting access to each site, and community members are trained on proper harvesting techniques and sustainable gardening practices. The Cincinnati Health Department recognizes the development of local food systems as a key initiative to the sustainable health of our region. In 2012 the City of Cincinnati adopted programs and policies to help with this effort, including a mobile food and produce vending program, and approval for a commercial composting facility.

FUTURE DIRECTIONS These results/initiatives serve as a call to action for organizations, entities, policy makers, and community stakeholders to acknowledge and holistically address issues of local food systems. Long-term sustainability requires a 'local food infrastructure', an economic network of people and activities in which year-round food production and aggregation, processing, distribution, access, consumption, and resource/waste recovery are tied to our geographic region. Short term goals include the expansion of our community farming initiatives through identifying and leveraging assets, enhancing networks and policy support to sustain environmental and systems changes – while increasing production and consumption of healthful foods. Contact Denisha Porter Cincinnati City Health Department 3101 Burnet Avenue Cincinnati, OH 45229 513-357-7457 Denisha.Porter@cincinnati-oh.gov STATEWIDE EFFORTS The Creating

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