March 15, 2013

Feeding Cities Conference Calls for Interdisciplinary Actions Addressing Urban Food Security

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – March 15, 2013 – Experts from around the world have issued a call for immediate action on the critical issue of food security at Feeding Cities: Food Security in a Rapidly Urbanizing World. Feeding Cities is the first international conference to examine the link between food security and urbanization, drawing more than 450 participants over two and half days. The conference, held in Philadelphia on March 13-15, 2013, was hosted by the Penn Institute of Urban Research (Penn IUR) in partnership with the School of Veterinary Medicine, and a Penn Steering Committee representing nine schools and six centers. The conference consisted of 9 plenary sessions and 12 breakout panels, featuring more than 60 speakers from across the globe, as well as a photo exhibition and the Penn Institute for Urban Research’s Annual Urban Leadership Forum. The conference fostered cross-disciplinary face-to-face conversation and provides an ongoing forum for deliberation at and on social media platforms (to date, conference participants contributed 828 tweets at #feedingcities).

In the closing session of the Feeding Cities conference, participants contributed to an “action agenda” that stresses the urgency of addressing food security around the world given the scale and pace of urbanization, population growth, and climate change. “We have less than a generation to craft necessary innovation across all sectors of food production, distribution, food quality, and food safety to respond to the demands of unprecedented global urbanization,” according to the agenda. “Intensifying food production in places with scarcity will require innovative land conversion and agricultural intensification techniques, investment in modern agricultural practices, and new infrastructure and governance solutions. While governance systems vary, we have much to learn from quickly emerging adaptive techniques in developing countries.”

In an effort to create an actionable agenda, participants prioritized challenges and solutions in four key areas:

  • Developing technologies and applying advanced techniques to foster healthy, sustainable and efficient agricultural and livestock production; increasing the flow of information to large and small farmers. Employing such emerging technologies as social media and cell phones, will be useful and can serve as critical instructional and informational tools.
  • Supporting the dissemination and sharing of technologies on small and medium farms through cooperatives or other mechanisms as well as on larger farms that can afford to invest in new technologies and achieve efficiencies of scale in order to produce affordable food. Designing animal/human habitation so that they can safely co-exist in complementary urban-rural environments.
  • Designing and developing infrastructure and human capital to support positive food environments by identifying opportunities and mitigating risks, while recognizing the complexities of behavior.
  • Enhancing and expanding the disciplinary reach of food security and nutrition networks and programs to foster integrated knowledge around issues of food production, distribution, and consumption.

In keeping with the aim of the Feeding Cities conference, the action agenda highlights the urgency and necessity of producing and supplying the world’s growing population with healthy, affordable, and safe food in a sustainable manner. The stakes are high, and addressing the problem requires a commitment from various public and private sectors. “In dealing with urban food security, we are not only contemplating how to feed people but also associated social, economic, and human health issues,” reads the agenda. “This demands integrating food security considerations into broader public economic development policy by national governments and donor and lender groups.”

The Feeding Cities conference was made possible by support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of the Vice Provost for Global Initiatives. For more information about the Feeding Cities conference: 


Media Contact:

Deborah Lang
Communications Director

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