With a third of the food produced in the world wasted, might one of the solutions be to source local, organic produce from nearby locations and reduce its transit process? A recent study concludes “yes”.
According to a new study by Elliott Campbell, a professor at the University of California, Merced, 90% of Americans could be fed entirely by food grown or raised within 100 miles of their homes. It’s hypothetical, of course, but the potential of this finding is intriguing – as well as hopeful.
Campbell concluded that while the potential to eat locally has declined over time, there is still grand opportunity to conduct change and for local farms to supply surrounding areas with enough food to thrive.
The professor used data from a farmland-mapping project support by the National Science Foundation and data about land productivity from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He and his students at the university looked at the farms within a local radius of every American city. Next, they calculated how many calories the farms could produce and then estimated the percentage of the population that could be sustained entirely by food grown by those farms.
“Farmers markets are popping up in new places, food hubs are ensuring regional distribution, and the 2014 U.S. Farm Bill supports local production — for good reason, too. There are profound social and environmental benefits to eating locally.”
He and his students were surprised by the potential they found in major coastal cities. For example, New York City could feed only 5 percent of its population within 50 miles. But extend that radius to 100 miles, and the number went up by 30%. And the greater Los Angeles area could feed as much as 50% within 100 miles.
Professor Campbell and his students also played around with different diet scenarios and discovered interesting results. For example, local food around San Diego can support 35% percent of the people based on the average U.S. diet. But switch that to a plant-based diet, and the number shoots up to 51%.
“Elliott Campbell’s research is making an important contribution to the national conversation on local food systems,” said author Michael Pollan. “That conversation has been hobbled by too much wishful thinking and not enough hard data — exactly what Campbell is bringing to the table.”
This information is exciting for the environmentally-conscious economist. Big shifts will happen in the near future because they have to, and this finding is just one more piece to the puzzle illuminating how it will all be made possible.
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