From Interstate - Journal of International Affairs VOL. 2013/2014 NO. 1
Food Security in the Contemporary World: Making Security Sustainable
In other locations that do not have a similar tradition, urban agriculture offers a unique opportunity to develop projects that are specific to the needs of the community in question. In the US, there has-been a trend toward community gardens, particularly in inner city areas such as the Bronx. New York . This area contains- approximately 175 community gardens. "Family health" was among the top three of the benefits felt by participants in such projects. This in and of itself is-confirm ation of the inadequacies of the commercial food structure currently in place. Furthermore, '31 % of the interviewed gardeners shared more than half [the produce that they generated]'.16 This further indicates-the far reaching effects of activities like community gardens , that make available fresh, nutritious produce, not only to the growers, but to friends, neighbours, other members of the community or other members of the gardening project itsel.
In urban environments where malnutrition is a chronic problem, development of similar practices may relieve the healthcare system of some of the costs associated with poor food quality. If the option was available to the members of community gardens to supply hospitals or nursing homes in the vicinity with their surplus produce, the financial pressure associated with food provision and security could be significantly reduced. This holds true, in particular, in welfare states where the healthcare system is funded by public monies. Some of the sustainability ventures already in place have instituted such projects. The Garden Project in Michigan, for instance, after harvesting, distributes the surplus crops to food pantries, residents of low-income housing, humanitarian organisations and 'particularly to senior citizens'.17 Distribution of surplus produce could contribute to the issues of malnutrition of those patients admitted to hospital, as well as with improving the nutrient intake of those over the age of sixty-five.
Therefore, the incorporation of sustainability into the definitional notion of food security is imperative. In addition to alleviating some of the environmental pressures modern society faces, the benefits contribute to other areas of food security and have the potential to create a mutually beneficial relationship . The choices made by those who are participating in sustainable urban agricultural projects contribute to mitigating the financial pressures of supplying individuals with food, increasing the nutritional content of individuals' intake by expanding the variety of food available for consumption and reducing the risks inherent in the oligarchic structure of commercial food production. Moreover , there are significant social benefits associated with the remaining categories: common availability and cultural acceptability. Through the multiple option s available to individuals via garden stores and, more importantly, the internet, common availability and sustainability go hand-in-hand in urban agricultural projects. This also sees the additional benefit of potential support for small-scale, local businesses. Cultural acceptability is also enhanced as sustainable agricultural projects support this aspect of food security by increasing the individual's free choice as well as relieving pressure on the producers to cater to increasingly complex cultural requirements.
The programs and initiatives that would have the most effect are relatively simple to integrate into food production systems. They would be similar to those of the Garden Project in Michigan, but would also include coordination with the local governing body to distribute to the public sphere. Other such projects that would be relatively cheap to introduce, and have nevertheless a high potential for significant impact on the carbon footprint resulting from the travel implications of large scale commercial agriculture, would be to institutionalise such initiatives such as the Research & Develop it Yourself project for hydroponic window gardens integrated into the catering departments of large businesses to contribute to the produce they would otherwise purchase. The range and flexibility of numerous pre-established and emerging innovative projects such as these, if incorporated into the consciousness and policy of the public sector could see reductions on manifold level'> and in a variety of areas. In the UK alone, malnutrition is estimated to incur a cost of 10.5 billion Euros a year.18 With the initiation of public sustainable urban agriculture programs this figure would undoubtedly decline .
One other present concern is the environmental impact and carbon footprint of states. A comprehensive drive to include sustain ability under the heading of food security would drive the public sector to push corporations to work toward the edicts of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change's Kyoto Protocol,19 particularly if the initiation of such projects were to be a method of obtaining carbon credits where urban and peri-urban agricultural projects are able to minimise the carbon footprint and impact by reducing the distribution and delivery methods currently being employed by large scale agricultural producers. In addition, the outcome of such a policy initiative could have a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of those employed in industrial and commercial sectors by securing and enhancing their nutritional rights promised by a secure food supply. Moreover, the Brundtland Report stresses the need for sustainability, 'that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future- generations to meet their own needs';20 this is not exclusive to the concept of food security. It should, in fact, be an essential feature of food security because, as Hopkins and Puchala say, 'securing adequate food is one of the oldest problems confronting political institutions'21 and should therefore be a duty, not just an ambition, of policy makers and urban planners.
In conclusion, the associated benefits of sustainable urban agricultural projects should mark the importance of the inclusion of sustainability as one of the tenants of the concept of food security - in addition to the recently added tenant of cultural acceptability - as it is clearly factor. In an increasingly multifarious society that gives rise to extensive challenges for policymakers, the inclusion of sustainability will go a long way towards addressing the problems associated with food production, consumption and also, and in particular, food security.
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Althaus Ottmarrn et al. 'Community Gardens: An Exploration of Urban Agriculture in the Bronx, New York City.' Paper given at. MillionTreesNYC, Green Infrastructure and Urban Ecology: A Research Symposium, March 5-6, 2010. Available at: http:/lwww.milliontreesnyc.org:/html/ researchJindex .shtrnl (Accessed 11 November 2011).
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Medical News Today (onlin e), 'Malnutrition: Europe's Hidden WeightProblem - Medi cal Nutrition International Industry, 31 August 2009, Available at: http: // www.medicalnewstoday .com/releases/162253.php (Accessed 13 November 2011).
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Brown, K H. and Carter, A. 'Urban Agriculture and Community Food Security in the United States: Farming from the City Center to the Urban Fringe A Primer Prepared by the Community Food Security Coalition's North American Urban Agriculture Committee'. October 2003. Community Food Security Coalition (online). Available at: http: //www.foodsecurity.org/pubs.html#ur ban ag (Accessed 11 November 2011). 22