FACTBOX-Innovative ways to tackle urban hunger

by Lisa Anderson | https://twitter.com/LisaAndersonNYC | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 2 May 2012 11:00 GMT

With 70 percent of the world's population set to become city dwellers, urban gardening takes centre stage

This story  is part of AlertNet’s special report  “Solutions For A Hungry World”

By Lisa Anderson

NEW YORK (AlertNet) - With the world's population set to swell to 9 billion people by 2050, hunger and undernutrition is expected to take on an increasingly urban face, as 70 percent of the planet's population become city dwellers.

One promising, if limited, solution is urban gardening.

From Bangkok to Boston, gardens are sprouting on the roofs of high rises, former factories, churches, and garages. Chicken coops and beehives dot rooftops and back gardens from London’s Hackney neighbourhood to the grittiest sections of Chicago.

Here are some innovative urban food projects:

UNITED STATES: Vertical farming

“One vertical farm with an architectural footprint of one square city block and rising up to 30 stories (approximately 3 million square feet) could provide enough nutrition (2,000 calories/day/person) to comfortably accommodate the needs of 10,000 people employing technologies currently available," said Dickson Despommier, professor of environmental health at Columbia University in New York City, in an essay on vertical farming.

The benefits of  include being able to produce crops all year round, converting abandoned urban buildings into centres producing food, and allowing farmland to return to nature, restoring ecosystems.


Founded in 2000 as a school gardening programme to fight obesity and diabetes among children, Collective Roots expanded to educate older low-income people on how to grow healthy, affordable food to feed themselves and even generate extra income from sales to farmers markets.

The programme, based in the “food desert” of East Palo Alto, recently received a Hunger Innovation Grant from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).  The grant will allow it to expand its education programme, increase to at least 25 the number of gardens it supports in low-income housing complexes, community centres and backyards and also create a Senior Growers Cooperative for its senior-citizen gardeners who will number over 200 in the next two years.   


Set up in 1991, The Food Project works with over 100 teenagers and thousands of volunteers to farm in the towns and cities of Beverly, Boston, Ipswich, Lincoln and Lynn.

Food from the farms is distributed through community supported agriculture programmes - where members buy a "share" of the crops that are grown in return for a supply of fresh vegetables, flowers and herbs - farmers markets and to hunger relief organisations.

LONDON: "FARM: and FARM:shop"

FARM: was launched in 2011 to bring farming to the city.

Located in London's gritty east end, FARM:shop opened its doors in March 2011 as a self-styled urban food 'Hub' – complete with cafe and arts venue,  mini acquaponic fish farm, rooftop chicken coops and indoor allotments.

BANGKOK: "Urban Farm Urban Barn"

This award-winning idea aims to return green areas to Thailand's capital city by transforming a former textile factory and abandoned plot of farmland into a 1.4-hectare site producing crops and selling them in a supermarket and restaurant on site.

PARIS:  Hanging garden

Created by French design company BarreauCharbonnet, the “Volet Vegetal” is a window mounted garden for people who wish to grow plants and vegetables but with minimal space to do so. It looks like a drawbridge and works by having plant pots on pivots to stay facing upright, whatever the angle.

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